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Open AccessArticle

Assessing the Risk of Phthalate Ester (PAE) Contamination in Soils and Crops Irrigated with Treated Sewage Effluent

by Yan Li 1,2,3, Guanhua Huang 3, Hua Gu 1,2, Quanzhong Huang 3, Chunhua Lou 1,2, Lei Zhang 1,2 and Honglu Liu 1,2,*
1
Beijing Water Science and Technology Institute, Beijing 100048, China
2
Beijing Engineering Technique Research Center for Exploration and Utilization of Non-Conventional Water Resources and Water Use Efficiency, Beijing 100048, China
3
College of Water Conservancy & Civil Engineering, China Agricultural University, Beijing 100083, China
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Water 2018, 10(8), 999; https://doi.org/10.3390/w10080999
Received: 15 April 2018 / Revised: 17 July 2018 / Accepted: 23 July 2018 / Published: 28 July 2018
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Health Risks of Alternative Water Sources)
Waste/reclaimed irrigation water has been promoted due to water shortages in arid and semi-arid areas. However, this process may be one of the sources of phthalate esters (PAEs) in agricultural soils, and the potential risks of PAEs for soil ecosystems and human health have attracted considerable attention. A two-year (from October 2014 to October 2016) field experiment was conducted to assess the contamination risk of PAEs from reclaimed irrigation water in winter wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) and summer maize (Zea mays L.) fields on the North China Plain. Three types of irrigation water quality were arranged for each variety, including reclaimed water, groundwater, and a mixture of reclaimed water and groundwater (1:1, v/v). The results indicate that the concentrations of the 6 PAEs in topsoil ranged from 2.79 to 5.34 mg/kg at the time of crop harvest. There was no significant effect of reclaimed irrigation water on the concentrations of PAEs in the soil. Di-n-butyl phthalate (DnBP) and di (2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP) were the most abundant contaminants in all soil samples, accounting for 43.2%~68.7% and 27.1%~48.6%, respectively, of the 6 PAEs. The levels of dimethyl phthalate (DMP) and DnBP in all soil samples exceeded the allowable soil concentrations, but the levels were far below the recommended soil cleanup objectives. The grain yields of winter wheat and summer maize ranged from 4.35 to 7.1 t/ha and 1.03 to 6.46 t/ha, respectively. There were no significant effects of reclaimed water on the growth characteristics and grain yield of winter wheat (p > 0.05); however, the effect of reclaimed irrigation water on summer maize was influenced by climate. The concentrations of the 6 PAEs in wheat grain and maize grain ranged from 1.03 to 4.05 mg/kg and from 0.37 to 3.29 mg/kg, respectively. For the same variety, there was no significant difference in the concentrations of the 6 PAEs in cereal grains among different treatments (p > 0.05). DEHP and DnBP were the most abundant components in most crop samples, accounting for 31.6%~77.9% and 21.1%~64.7%, respectively, of the 6 PAEs. The concentrations of the PAEs, DnBP and DEHP in cereal grains were lower than those in the reference doses. The BCFs of the 6 PAEs and of each PAE in cereal grains were 0.43~1.25 and 0.33~35.75, respectively. The BCFs of butyl benzyl phthalate (BBP) were the highest (1.41~35.75), followed by DMP and DEHP. There were almost no significant differences in the BCFs of each PAE among the three treatments. The total carcinogenic risks of PAEs were 2.82 × 10−5 for adults and 1.81 × 10−5 for children. The total non-carcinogenic risks of PAEs were 3.37 × 10−1 for adults and 7.98 × 10−1 for children. DHEP was the dominant contributor to both risks, and the intake of cereals was the main exposure pathway for the two risks. In conclusion, there were no significant effects of reclaimed irrigation water on the concentrations of PAEs in soil and cereal grains compared with groundwater irrigation, and the human health risks were within the acceptable range. Long-term studies are needed to evaluate the long-term effects of reclaimed irrigation water on the contamination risk posed by PAEs. View Full-Text
Keywords: phthalate esters; soil; winter wheat; summer maize; reclaimed water phthalate esters; soil; winter wheat; summer maize; reclaimed water
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Li, Y.; Huang, G.; Gu, H.; Huang, Q.; Lou, C.; Zhang, L.; Liu, H. Assessing the Risk of Phthalate Ester (PAE) Contamination in Soils and Crops Irrigated with Treated Sewage Effluent. Water 2018, 10, 999.

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