Open access peer-reviewed chapter

Heavy Metal Contamination of Food Crops: Transportation via Food Chain, Human Consumption, Toxicity and Management Strategies

Written By

Vanisree C.R., Mahipal Singh Sankhla, Prashant Singh, Ekta B. Jadhav, Rohit Kumar Verma, Kumud Kant Awasthi, Garima Awasthi and Varad Nagar

Submitted: 27 November 2021 Reviewed: 08 December 2021 Published: 18 January 2022

DOI: 10.5772/intechopen.101938

From the Edited Volume

Environmental Impact and Remediation of Heavy Metals

Edited by Hosam M. Saleh and Amal I. Hassan

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Food security is a major concern that requires sustained advancement both statistically and on the basis of Qualitative assessment. In recent years, antagonistic impacts of unforeseen toxins have impacted the quality of crops and have created a burden on human lives. Heavy metals (e.g., Hg, As, Pb, Cd, and Cr) can affect humans, adding to dreariness and in severe cases even death. It additionally investigates the conceivable geological routes of heavy metals in the surrounding subsystems. The top-to-the-bottom conversation is additionally offered on physiological/atomic movement systems engaged with the take-up of metallic foreign substances inside food crops. At long last, the board procedures are proposed to recapture maintainability in soil–food subsystems. This paper reflects the contamination of the food crops with heavy metals, the way of transport of heavy metal to food crops, degree of toxicity after consumption and the strategies to maintain the problem.


  • assimilation
  • crops
  • health
  • heavy metals exposure
  • soil
  • toxicity

1. Introduction

The contamination of heavy metals has spread widely across the environment, wreaking havoc on humans and the environment causing risks to the human race and hazard for the environment. A few hazardous Heavy metals (such as As, Pb, Cd, and Hg) relates to metabolic and other organic capacities as inconsequential. Certain metals, like Zn, Fe, Cr (III), etc., are important to carry metabolic cycles, including hemeproteins (like cytochrome p450) and catalysts. They are related to biota metabolism [1]. Despite the fact that metals like Nickel is an essential part of urease, it poses a significant health hazard for the human populations [1, 2] Accordingly, food and soil, crop/vegetable frameworks have given an exemplary illustration of the biodiverse ecosystem communications in the climate. For food the basic source of yield is the soil, but it is prone to contamination by heavy metals from various origins (e.g., energy-serious enterprises, for example, nuclear energy stations and coal mine shafts, and chloro-soluble base synthetic ventures, like goldmines, purifying, electroplating, materials, calfskin, and e-squander handling) and nonpoint sources (e.g., soil/residue disintegration, farming spillover, and open cargo stockpiling). Notwithstanding their human wellbeing suggestions, Heavy metals unfavorably influences soil biota through microbial cycles [3]. For instance, restorative plants utilized for customary human medical care ought to be analyzed for Heavy metals tainting to forestall unfavorable impacts. When exposed to near refining or other modern environments, a variety of restorative species of plants have been found to cause bioaccumulation of various heavy metals (e.g., Cd, As, Cr, Cd, Cu, Pb, and Fe) [4, 5]. Both anthropogenic and natural sources release heavy metals into the environment. They can penetrate soils and groundwater, bioaccumulate in food webs, and harm biota because they are highly reactive and typically toxic at low quantities. The biotic effects of necessary and non-essential heavy metals are often highly distinct, and vary depending on the exact metal involved. This paper aims to provide a global overview of significant metal sources in agro-environments that are equivalent to the various anthropogenic activities and cycles [6]. This also includes details about heavy metals contamination in soil environments where food crops are grown in fully occupied main-lands. Moreover, ecological and lives of humans in these subsystems are needed to be discussed to aid in the understanding of the physiological/atomic systems which constitutes to the uptake of Heavy metals in the crops [7]. By suffocating or reducing the passage of metallic poisons from soil to food crops, management strategies are inextricably linked to human well-being government aid (soil-crop frameworks).


2. Heavy metal contamination

Natural contamination of these heavy metals is a significant environmental issue due to its negative impacts all over the world. Because of rapidly increasing horticultural and metal enterprises, improper rubbish removal, manures, and pesticides, organic wastes that are being disposed of in water bodies, land soil, and the environment. A few metals have an effect on natural capacities and development, while others collect in at least one organ, creating a variety of real illnesses such as cancer. Each metal’s toxicological and pharmacokinetics cycles in humans are depicted. In general, environmental auditing can tell us the effects of heavy metal bioaccumulation in the human body with context to biochemical and physiological changes, as well as the severe illnesses occurring from their exposure.

Climate is an environmental factor in which people, plants, beings, minute living beings. It comprises land, the atmosphere and the hydrosphere component. Earth is a framework that is characterized by the four pillars, the living organisms (biosphere), the atmosphere (air), the lithosphere (land) and water (hydrosphere) which are all employed in a combination. Natural toxins, just like contaminations, are synthetic substances that are available at more elevated levels than in any segment of the climate [8, 9, 10]. During the most recent years, the process of industrialization has developed at a rapid phase. This manner has expanded the interest for abuse of the Earth’s regular assets which is a growing concern ecological contamination [11]. A few poisons, such as inorganic particles, natural toxins, organometallic substances, vaporous poisons, radioactive substances and nano-based materials, have actually poisoned the climate [12, 13].

Heavy metals have existed on earth since the existence of earth. Because of an amazing increment in the usage of substantial metals which brought about a fast-approaching flood of metallic substances in both the earthbound climate and the oceanic climate [12]. The Heavy metal contamination has occurred due to anthropogenic activities, primarily due to metal mining, purification, foundries, and other metal-based ventures, as well as metal draining from various sources such as landfills, squander dumps, discharge, animals and chicken fertilizer, overflows, cars, and roadworks [7]. The usage of Heavy Metals (Heavy metals) in the industries like agriculture, pesticides, insect poisons, manures etc., has been an optional wellspring of heavy metal contamination. Eruptions from volcanoes, consumption of metals, from the environment are all examples of natural events that might increase heavy metal contamination. This contamination can travel from soil and water causing soil breakdown, and land degradation, which are all examples of natural factors that might increase heavy metal contamination [14].


3. Source of heavy metal in irrigation water

Heavy metals are commonly found in the environment as a result of substrate erosion. These naturally occurring heavy metals are generally in forms that are inaccessible to plant roots [15]. However, due to a rise in human activities that release more biologically accessible forms of heavy metals into the environment, this has altered in recent years [16] Agriculture is one of the most major human activity that contributes to heavy metals being released into the environment [17]. Using wastewater to irrigate agricultural soils resulted in considerably greater amounts of heavy metals in the edible parts of the crops produced on these soils, according to [18]. Heavy metals may be present in factory wastewater, which build over time in soil deposits along waste water routes as well as in creatures that live near them. Human exposure to polluted wastewater is common, especially in densely populated metropolitan areas or when wastewater is utilized for agricultural purposes.

Multiple businesses (textile, dyeing, garment, pharmaceutical, ceramic, paint, packing, etc.) dump untreated wastewater into neighboring canals, causing heavy metal pollution in irrigation water in Bangladesh’s Gazipur District. Due to wastewater discharge from businesses, it was found that the surface water and soil of the industrial region in Dhaka and Gazipur District are significantly contaminated with Zn, Cr, Cu, Pb, and Cd. Farmers irrigate their crops with polluted water, resulting in heavy metal pollution in the district’s veggies. Vegetables are polluted with high amounts of Cr, Zn, Cu, Fe, Pb, Ni, and Cd in the industrial region of the Dhaka Export Processing Zone (DEPZ). The majority of these veggies are sold at Dhaka’s wholesale market and are consumed by a large number of people [19, 20, 21]. (Table 1) demonstrate the concentrations of heavy metals (mg L−1) in effluent-contaminated water for irrigation within the DEPZ in Dhaka, Bangladesh [21].

Safe limit0.50.10.01

Table 1.

Concentrations of heavy metals (mg L−1) in effluent-contaminated water [21].

3.1 Source of heavy metal in agricultural soil

Heavy metals and metalloids may be accumulated in soils as a result of discharges from rapidly expanding modern regions, mine tailings, removal of high metal squanders, leaded gas and paints, land use of composts, animal excrement, sewage slop, pesticides, wastewater water system, coal burning buildups, petrochemical spillage, and environmental statements [22, 23]. Frequently recognized heavy metals like Lead (Pb), chromium (Cr), arsenic (As), zinc (Zn), cadmium (Cd), copper (Cu), mercury (Hg), and nickel (Ni) are the pollutants. Soils are a significant sink for heavy metals delivered into the climate by recently referenced anthropogenic exercises, and dissimilar to regular unfamiliar substances that are oxidized to carbon (IV) oxide by microbial movement, most metals do not go through microbial or compound degradation, and their complete obsession in soils goes on for quite a while after discharge [24, 25]. Regardless, changes in their substance structure (speciation) and bioavailability are conceivable. The presence of harmful metals in soil can keep regular pollutants from biodegrading appropriately [26]. Significant metal contamination of soil can jeopardize individuals and the organic framework through: direct ingestion or contact with spoiled soil, the normal lifestyle (soil–plant-human or soil–plant–animal-human), drinking defiled ground water, decline in food quality (security and appeal) because of phytotoxicity, and reduction in land usability for agrarian creation because of phytotoxicity [27]. The adequate security and rebuilding of heavy metal-tainted soil biological systems need their depiction and repair. At both the public and global levels, current legislation on natural insurance and general well-being is based on data that describes the compound qualities of ecological wonders, particularly those that exist in our developed way of life [28]. Risk assessment is a powerful logical tool that enables leaders to manage contaminated areas in a cost-effective manner while protecting public and biological system health [29]. Heavy metals happen spontaneously in the soil environment as a result of pedogenetic cycles of parent material lasting at levels that are considered safe (1000 mg/kg-1) and occasionally hazardous (1000 mg/kg-1) [29]. In view of man’s exacerbation and acceleration of nature’s progressively happening geochemical example of metals, most soils in country and metropolitan regions may collect at any rate one of the heavy metals above described establishment regards adequately high to represent a danger to human wellbeing, plants, animals, organic frameworks, or other media [30]. Significant metals basically become toxins in soil conditions since (I) their paces of maturing through counterfeit cycles are quicker than normal ones, (ii) they are moved from mines to self-assertive regular regions with higher odds of direct receptiveness, and (iii) the metal unions in discarded things are tolerably high contrasted with those in get items. Critical metals in soil from anthropogenic sources will be more adaptable and henceforth bioavailable than those from pedogenic or lithogenic sources [30]. Metal-bearing solids in spoiled regions can emerge out of an assortment of anthropogenic sources, including metal mine tailings, expulsion of high metal wastes from inappropriately got landfills, leaded gas and poisonous paints, land utilization of fertilizer, creature feces, biosolids (sewage sludge), compost, pesticides, coal start developments, petrochemicals, and air contamination [31]. Fertilizer. Horticulture was the most important human effect on the land in general [32]. Plants require not just macronutrients but also essential micronutrients to build up and complete the lifecycle. Some soils are deficient in heavy metals which are necessary for solid plant development, and harvests might be supplemented with them as a soil development or foliar spray. Grain crops grown on Cu-deficient soils are treated with Cu on a regular basis as a soil expansion, and cereal and root crops may also be given Mn. In major cultivating frameworks, large volumes of compost are frequently applied to soils to provide adequate N, P, and K for crop development. Following measurements of heavy metals (e.g., Cd and Pb) as contaminants are present in the mixes utilized to supply these components [33] which may fundamentally extend their substance in the soil after being applied with compost. Cd and Pb, for example, have no recognized physiological effects. The use of some phosphatic composts accidentally introduces Cd and other potentially toxic components to the soil, such as F, Hg, and Pb [34]. Pesticides. In the past, a few common insecticides used widely in agribusiness and agriculture included significant metal centralizations. For example, in the recent past, around 10% of the synthetics used as insecticides and fungicides in the United Kingdom were based on intensities containing Cu, Hg, Mn, Pb, or Zn. Copper-containing fungicidal splashes like Bordeaux mixture (copper sulphate) and copper oxychloride are examples of such pesticides [35]. For a long time, lead arsenate was used in natural product plantings to suppress parasitic microorganisms. In New Zealand and Australia, arsenic-containing compounds were additionally broadly used to control dairy cows ticks and banana bugs, woods have been saved with Cu, Cr, and As (CCA) plans, and there are currently various disregarded regions where soil groupings of these parts endlessly outperform establishment obsessions. The narrative of arsenic pollution, infiltration, and its impact on a variety of crops, foods, mushrooms, fruits, vegetables, sea animals, and fish and animal products is being revealed via ongoing research [36]. Such contamination may cause issues, particularly if areas are revamped for non-horticultural or agrarian reasons. Rather than excrements, the utilization of such materials has been more compelled, in light of indicated objections or yields. Biosolids and Manures. The inadvertent social affair of heavy metals and others in the soil is brought about by the utilization of different biosolids (e.g., creature composts, fertilizers, and civil sewage ooze). In agribusiness, some living thing squanders like chickens, dairy cattle, and pig waste products are commonly applied to harvests and fields as solids or slurries [37]. In spite of the way that most fertilizers are viewed as significant excrements, the Cu and Zn added to things down as improvement advertisers and advertisers in the pig and poultry businesses. Metal spoiling of the dirt may happen because of the fixings in poultry wellbeing items. Fertilizers made by creatures on such weight reduction regimens incorporate high centralizations of As, Cu, and Zn, which, whenever applied a few times to restricted spaces of land, can bring about significant development of these metals in the soil over the long haul. Biosolids (sewage slop) are essentially regular, amazing items that might be used subsequent to being given by wastewater treatment systems. Land utilization of biosolids materials is a typical procedure in numerous nations that consider the reuse of biosolids given by metropolitan populaces [38, 39, 40]. In view of its far and wide acknowledgment and authoritative significance, the expression sewage waste is utilized in an assortment of contexts [41]. In any case, the word biosolids is getting more utilized as a substitute for sewage overflow, since it is considered to better precisely portray the gainful properties inborn in sewage ooze. Most of the 5.6 million dry truck heaps of sewage waste utilized or unloaded in the United States are assessed to be land applied, and biosolids are utilized in provincial regions around the country. Over 30% of sewage ooze is utilized as manure in agriculture in the European social class [42]. The major urban expert in Australia gives around 1,75,000 tons of dry biosolids consistently, and most biosolids applied to agrarian land are presently utilized in arable managing circumstances where they might be united into the dirt. There’s likewise a great deal of buzz about the chance of enhancing soil biosolids with other regular assets like sawdust, straw, or nursery squander. There will be suggestions for metal polluting of soils if this inclination proceeds. Biosolids’ penchant to debase soils by eliminating substantial metals has started to worry about their use in agrarian activities. Significant metals are probably not going to be foundare Pb, Ni, Cd, Cr, Cu, and Zn, and the metal obsessions are addressed by the nature and the force of the advanced development, similarly as the sort of connection used during the biosolids treatment [43]. Wastewater. The practise of dumping urban and mechanical wastewater and associated effluents on land dates back 400 years and is now commonplace in countless parts of the world [44]. Squander water has been estimated to cover 20 million hectares of fertile land throughout the world. Considerations suggest that horticulture depending on wastewater water systems contributes 50% of the vegetable supply to metropolitan regions in certain Asian and African cities. Ranchers, for the most part, are unconcerned with ecological benefits or risks, and are only interested in increasing their profits and benefits. Despite the fact that metal fixations in wastewater effluents are typically modest, a long-distance water system with such might eventually result in significant metal accumulation in the ground. Industrial Wastes and Metal Mining and Milling Cycles Mining and handling of metal assets, in mix with organizations, has given numerous nations the legacy of inescapable metal contamination transport in soil. Tailings are essentially released into customary dejections, including neighboring wetlands, bringing about expanded obsessions. Contamination of soil has come about because of far and wide Pb and zinc Zn metal mining and filtration, representing a danger to human and organic wellbeing. A significant number of the recuperation techniques utilized here are tedious and costly, and they will most likely be unable to reestablish soil utility. Bioavailability has been featured as a soil heavy metal natural danger to individuals. Retention of plant material filled in (normal hierarchy) or quick ingestion (oral bioavailability) of contaminated soil are instances of assimilation courses. Various materials are created by an assortment of organizations, including material, tanning, petrochemicals from unplanned oil spills or the utilization of oil-based items, pesticides, and medication workplaces, and they assume a critical part in the arrangement as shown in (Figure 1). Despite the way that some appear on shore, few have agrarian or officer administration benefits. Moreover, a few are conceivably perilous in light of the fact that to the presence of huge metals (Cr, Pb, and Zn) or poisonous normal mixes, and are simply applied to arrive on uncommon events, if by any means. Others are insufficient in plant supplements or do not have the capacity to shape soil [32].

Figure 1.

Source of heavy metal contamination.


4. Heavy metal uptake and bioaccumulation in food crops

For groundwater and plants, soil serves as both a source and a sink for the presence of Heavy metals [45]. These toxicants get accumulated in the land soil and has become a serious concern as a result of fast advances the agricultural and industrial sectors [46]. Crops are essential part of diet of individuals and are vital source of important nutritional components like minerals and vitamins [47, 48]. Crops grown on contaminated lands with Heavy Metals, these metals accumulate in the plants edible parts, which are then ingested by humans [49] Because heavy metals are resistant from degradation, and have long half-life periods, thus difficult to excrete out. Many metals are hazardous at low doses, Heavy metal poisoning is a major problem in crops [18, 45, 50, 51]. Long-term exposure to heavy metal contaminated crops can result in a variety of health problems, including bone thinning, skin problems, improper endocrine gland function, blood pressure, neoplastic growth, impairment of sexual characteristics, asthma and other respiratory issues, heart diseases, and brain impairments [52, 53]. Heavy metal contamination in crops is a concern worldwide that leads to toxidromes and a variety of illnesses in humans, flora and fauna, when polluted soils and food crops are consumed.

4.1 Metal uptake and transportation pathways

Ingestion and amassing of substantial metals in plant tissues rely on temperature, dampness, natural matter, pH, and supplement accessibility [54]. Heavy metal amassing moreover depends upon plant species, while the viability of plants in engaging metals is directed by either plant take-up or soil-to-plant move factors of the metals [22]. Brought lead step up in soils, for instance, may diminish soil convenience, while very low lead obsession may stifle some fundamental plant capacities like photosynthesis, mitosis, and water absorption, bringing about destructive indications like dull green leaves, shrinking of more prepared leaves, ruined foliage, and hearty hued short roots, among others [55]. Huge metals are possibly unsafe, causing chlorosis, helpless plant development, and low yield, and they might be joined by decreased enhancement take-up, issues in plant absorption, and a diminished ability to fix subatomic nitrogen in leguminous plants [56]. Because of exercises like mineral burrowing, metal transportation, decontaminating and refining, and expulsion of tailings and waste waters around mines, mining and filtering occupations are significant reasons for weighty metal polluting in the environment [57, 58]. Disinfecting of water and soil, phytotoxicity, soil crumbling, and likely dangers to human wellbeing are a portion of the negative normal effects of unnecessary hefty metals tossed about mine and purifying locales [48, 59, 60]. Critical metal pollution of cultivating soils and yields in mining zones has been viewed as an uncommon normal risk [61, 62, 63]. Heavy metal take-up by roots from debased soils and surface water, just as immediate exchange of toxins from the climate on plant surfaces, can bring about critical metal defilement of plants [23]. Lead and Cd are suspected malignancy causing synthetics and have been connected to the etiology of an assortment of sicknesses, including cardiovascular, renal, blood, apprehensive, and bone illnesses [64]. Notwithstanding the way that Zn and Cu are fundamental segments, their exorbitant focus in food and feed plants is of incredible concern attributable to their harmfulness to people and living things [65]. Development of yields for human or trained being utilization may possibly prompt the take-up and amassing of these metals in consumable plant leaves, representing a danger to human and living thing wellbeing (Figure 2) [66, 67]. Unnecessary dietary gathering of heavy metals like Cd and Pb in the human body may bring about genuine clinical issues [68]. For the greater part, dietary induction is the dominating method of receptiveness, regardless of the way that in profoundly contaminated regions, internal breath can assume a significant part [69]. The significant channel of human receptiveness to generous metals is the soil-to-manage trade of heavy metals. The developing human populace has started an interest for more food [23]. Pesticides, manures, fertilizers, composts, and wastewater have all been utilized all the more frequently in the water framework accordingly [70]. Food crops developed on metal-drained soil can ingest and gather metals in critical amounts to influence food quality and wellbeing [71]. Most nations have given genuine thought to the control of hefty metals in food crops because of soil pollution in country regions [72].

Figure 2.

Heavy metal uptake and transportation to food chain.

Plants retain fundamental and pointless segments from the soil dependent on fixing inclination and molecule explicit take-up, or by means of scattering [73]. Root assumes a critical part in the take-up of metal particles. Due to the presence of cellulose, gelatin, and glycoproteins, which go about as express molecule exchangers, (TEs) adsorb on the root surface in a cationic setuFp with a negative cell divider [74]. The cations (Zn2+, Mn2+, Cd2+, Fe2+, Pb2+, Ni2+) are open at the root surface and effectively gathered into the root apoplast [75]. In the wake of being accumulated in the root apoplast, the cations are either held in the root cells or moved radially to the root stele and packed into the xylem and phloem tissues in one of two different ways: apoplastic/reserved transportation or sym-plastic/powerful transportation [76]. The scattering of metal particles in the root cell through the earth plan causes disengaged transportation, while the unique transportation of metal particles happens through the plasma layer, which is hindered by different carriers or transporters [77]. The xylem sap is coordinated upwards by the incident stream, where TEs are moved to the aeronautical tissues. In the event that no redistribution happens, TEs will assemble in photosynthetically powerful leaves. The phloem, another vascular tissue, revamps and supplements the results of photosynthesis across the entire plant body, between the sources and sinks. The scattering of metal particles in the root cell through the earth course of action causes separated transportation, while the powerful transportation of metal particles happens through the plasma layer, which is hindered by different carriers or transporters [77]. The xylem sap is coordinated upwards by the occurrence stream, where TEs are moved to the aeronautical tissues. On the off chance that no redistribution happens, TEs will assemble in photosynthetically powerful leaves. The phloem, another vascular tissue, reworks and supplements the results of photosynthesis across the entire plant body, between the sources and sinks. TEs can be moved from senescing leaves to sinks through the phloem (e.g., creating vegetative parts and creating regular items). Before the xylem sap comes to the mesophyll cells, TEs can likewise relocate to the phloem [78]. Phloem transport comprises of (I) apoplastic stacking into both accomplice cells and sifter parts, just as (ii) unloading at the objective sink tissues [79]. A few metal-limiting mixes, including as nicotianamine and phytochelatins, were demonstrated to be reasonable for shipping TEs in the phloem [80]. Each progression requires a staggering cooperation of chelating designs and metal transporters that influence metal accumulation speed [80]. Metal chelators are connected to a few phases of micronutrient take-up, inside vehicle, and sequestration in the cytosol and subcellular compartments [80]. Metal take-up and remobilization from intracellular compartments into the cytosol is worked with by the ZIP, NRAMP, yellow stripe (YS), and copper transporter (COPT) families, while heavy metal-delivery ATPases (Heavy metalAs), the cation (CDF) family, the cation exchanger (CAX) family, and the multi-drug and destructive compound ejection (MATE) family, just as the plant cadmium resistance [80].

4.2 Metal stress tolerance mechanisms

Heavy metal toxicity causes a wide range of physiological and biochemical changes, and plants must evolve and/or adopt a variety of methods to deal with the detrimental effects of heavy metal toxicity. Plants react through several mechanisms to external stimuli including toxicity to heavy metals. These include (i) external stress stimulus sensing, (ii) signal transduction and signal transmission into the cell and (iii) appropriate actions are taken to offset the negative effects of stress stimuli by modulating the cell’s physiological, biochemical, and molecular status. (Singh 2016). Generous metals can instigate DNA strand breakage, nuclear crosslinking, adjustments in innate materials, oxidative pressing factor and harm from ROS and free extremists, just as helpful and hidden layer disintegrating, all of which increment heavymetal phyto-openness and cutoff reap plant growth. Every one of those biochemical, physiological, and genetic changes in plants are indivisibly associated with human prosperity and the advanced lifestyle. Heavy metals likewise produce uncommon physiological changes and opposing impacts at numerous periods of improvement, especially germination and seedlings. Heavy metals antagonistically affect the synthetics and protein profiles engaged with germination (e.g., destructive phosphatases, proteases, and - amylases). Heavy metals, for instance, diminished starch content, restricted enhancement levels, hampered chloroplast PSII, and provoked the declaration of warmth daze proteins and proline [81, 82]. The impacts of substantial metals have been focused on rice [83, 84] as per seed advancement of food yields, and Cd is likely the most considered poison [85]. Regardless of this, restricted examination has zeroed in on multi-metal toxicity in food crops [82, 84]. Co was demonstrated to be the most inconvenient to cauliflower (B. oleracea) as far as hostile effects on biomass and physiological exercises (e.g., foliar Fe, chlorophylls a, b, protein, and catalase action) [86, 87]. Those metals moreover obstructed the development of major parts (e.g., P, S, Mn, and Zn) from the roots to the shoots, with Cr showing the least phytotoxicity [87]. Metal transporters/chelators, for example, phyto-siderophores, are utilized to ship heavy metals and metalloids into the cells of food crops [88, 89, 90, 91, 92, 93]. heavy metals and metalloids produce oxidative pressing factor in plants by changing cysteine over to diminished glutathione (GSH) and oxidized glutathione (GSSG) (the extent of GSH/GSSG = oxidative pressing factor or ROS age) [90] and shaping phytochelatins [90, 94]. Saltiness stress can likewise influence the measure of heavy metal pollution in food crops, just as their physiological and biochemical properties [95]. Metal contamination diminished the biomass and chlorophyll substance of explicit vegetables (most strikingly water spinach, trailed by amaranth, leaf mustard, Chinese sprouting cabbage, green capsicum, and tomato); on the other hand, the level of peroxidase, known to be an adversary of oxidative protein, at first extended at low assemblies of the metallic pollutants [87]. With an expansion in heavy metal focuses, tomato, the food least contaminated by metals, turned out to be progressively powerless against pungent pressure [87]. Key cycles in the ability to convey heavy metals incorporate phytochelation and immobilization by lignocellulose and different portions of plants, just as the limit of metals in the vacuole [87].


5. Toxicity in food crops

Yields collect essential TE groups in both appealing and unpalatable portions. When compared to other crops, verdant greens collect large groups of TEs from contaminated soil [96]. Crops absorb Heavy metals from contaminated land and by barometrically measuring particle matter from a variety of origins. Heavy metals are absorbed from the roots and then transported to the various cells of the crops [96]. They are transported to many parts of the plant by multiple channels, resulting in degradation of the developmental characteristics of crops due to change in the metabolic, physiological and biochemical activities of crops [97, 98]. Presence of these harmful components in the harvests can present poisonous indications that has serious outcomes (Figure 3).

Figure 3.

Heavy metal toxicity in food crops.

5.1 Adverse impacts on plant health

The immediate impacts of TEs can cause catalyst inhibition of cytoplasm and underlying oxidative pressure can cause cell damage [99]. Plant is affected in a roundabout way by substituting important nutrients. TEs are present in variety of crops and its associated parts or even the entire plant [80]. Plant roots may easily absorb TEs and transport them to the edible portion of the plant [100] High convergence of TEs present in the soil has a number of unfavorable effects on crops and, subsequently, human health [80, 101]. Heavy metals like Cd and Pb in crops are not essential, and when they are present in large amounts they accumulate in the crops, it disturbs ingestion and transportation system, disrupting opposition potential, electron move framework, photosynthesis, breath, digestion, enzymatic action, development, and propagation [102]. The presence of the heavy metal also indicated various effects on the crops. Effect of Pb. Cr, Hg and Cd were studied on maize tomato, garlic, rice, and reduced shoot length, reduced nutrient uptake, decrease germination percentage and lower plant protein content was reported by [103].


6. Transportation via the food chain and occurrence in human food

Anthropogenic and natural sources are major supply for heavy metals in the surroundings. Heavy metals contaminate land and leach out to waterbodies, show their effect by persisting in the food cycle, have antagonistic effects on biota since they are very responsive and toxic at low concentrations [104, 105]. Toxic metals gets accumulated by plants from roots. Heavy metal travels through the water stream by apoplast to the internal cells (endodermis). This endodermis function as a protective layer for Heavy metal movement. The casparian strip prevents water stream and the Heavy metal enters the symplastic phase. Heavy metal transportation (in low concentrations) through root to APP have accounted for of immobilization by contrarily charged gelatins inside the root cell divider [106, 107]. Insoluble Heavy metal salts hasten in intercellular spaces of root cells [107, 108]. Essentially, Heavy metal amassing in plasma layers of root cells [107, 109] or in rhizodermal vacuoles and cortical cells of roots. Significant segment of Heavy metal is discharged from internal cells (endodermis) during the detoxification process by the plant. Foundations of hyper accumulator species break up metals in soil [110], increment metal take-up and movement, and make hyper accumulator species to endure higher Heavy metal particles focuses. Other detoxifying components include specific metal take-up, discharge, ligand binding, all contribute to Heavy metal resistance. The transfer of Heavy metal from lower part of plant to upper (root-shoot) is aided by xylem, which is most likely supported by occurrence [111]. On mesquite plants [106], demonstrated X-beam planning and observed high Heavy metal statements in xylem and phloem cells. It was found that Heavy metal traveled to the leaf from the vascular stream via apoplastic pathway [75]. In xylem, Heavy metal can frame edifices with amino/natural acids [112]. In any case, inorganic Heavy metal can likewise be moved. Movement (i.e., Heavy metal present in aeronautical parts/driving roots) can be executed for understanding level of Heavy metal movement [110, 112, 113, 114]. Notwithstanding, the admission of Heavy metal tainted plants has been a significant openness to people and creature [113, 114, 115]. Consumable/wild plants developed/filled nearby phosphate businesses can be Heavy metal bio-pointers of harmful metals [113]. Occupants and laborers of these businesses/regions might be presented to Heavy metal tainting.

The degree of toxicity of TEs in people relies upon every day admission through utilization of different sorts of vegetables [41, 97, 116, 117]. To understand the human health vulnerabilities from TEs when they consume crops, existing data records, and boundaries are used. Target hazard quotient (THQ), daily dietary intake of metals (DDI), hazard index (HI), daily intake of metals (DIM), and health risk index are among the items on the list (HRI). The THQ list is used to assess the health risks by toxic elements by giving a proper information on metal content from land (soil) and plants [118].


7. Hazardous effects of crops containing heavy metals on health of humans

Heavy metal contaminating eateries has a progression bearing unfavorable consequences for the health of humans because of their pervasive and refractory nature. Unnecessary metals have the capacity to bypass preventive mechanisms like compartmentalization, homeostasis, cellular failure, oxidative breakdown, and ship, resulting in toxic and fatal consequences. The significant manifestations of TEs harmfulness in people are scholarly handicap in youngsters, CNS problems, dementia and sadness in grown-ups, a sleeping disorder, kidney and liver sicknesses, passionate shakiness, and vision unsettling influences [119, 120], expanded the dreariness and death rate. Metal toxicants cause oxidative stress in individuals, which is described by: a) expanded creation of Reactive Oxygen Species/Reactive Nitrogen Species (ROS/RNS) b) exhaustion/debasement of internal enemy of oxidant and free-revolutionary scroungers c) restraint/decrease in digestion and catalysts identified with decontamination process. In spite of the fact that toxicity arising from unexpected or word related openness to generous quantities of metals normally influences organ frameworks, seriousness of the harmfulness relies upon the kind and type of the TEs, openness course and duration and, likewise by person’s defenselessness [120, 121].

Harmful substances (metals) ingested in the course of debased crops can result in a variety of long-term illnesses as shown in (Figure 4). TEs consumption in polluted eatables might degrade several important nutrients of the body. This depletion is also linked to decreased malnutritional abilities, immunological defenses, hampered psychosocial resources, intrauterine development impediment, and increased threat of upper GI cancer [122]. Extreme sensitivity to Cd may amplify pneumonic effects. Subchronic inward Cd breath might also have a negative influence on the kidneys. Moreover Lead (Pb) toxic has been linked to the Brain/CNS and the GIT in both adolescents and adults [123], the impact may be severe or long-term. Stomach discomfort, desiring trouble, joint pain, pipedreams migraine, hypertension, fatigue, renal brokenness, restlessness, and vertigo are all symptoms of intense Pb openness [124]. Pb over time can cause allergic reactions, chemical imbalances, birth defects, CNS damage, renal damage, solid shortcoming, loss of mobility, psychosis, malnutrition, in severe cases death [125].

Figure 4.

Heavy metal hazardous effect on human health.

Increased centralization of Zn causes disability development and proliferation. Examples include Cr (Cr+3 and Cr+6 effects) which are hazardous to both flora and fauna followed by threats to humans as well [126]. Minimum concentrations of As can lead to irregular heartbeats, low levels of blood plasma proteins, discomfort, nausea and heaving, pricking sensations in upper and lower limbs, accompanied with vein damage. Chronic exposures of As may result in heart disease, high blood pressure, internal cancerous infestations, mental issues, infection of vascular system, aspiratory illness, acne, and Diabetes. Ongoing arsenicosis may cause permanent alterations in major body-organ systems, thus increasing high mortality rate [127].


8. Strategies for food safety regulation and mitigation of the health hazards

Many studies have been conducted on the uptake, collection, and elimination of TEs in model plants at the research facility scale by a few scientists. Despite this, few investigations are conducted in the field in a straightforward manner. As a result, there is a need to look into the gaps in terms of the practicality of ways to reduce TEs in daily food sources and in high-need food items, similarly drinking water which is an essential component in the prevention and elimination of Heavy metals. There have been many advances in molecular biology and biotechnology applications of a few plant and animal species, the altered/controlled ingestion of harmful components, as well as categorizing these components into non-consumable parts, but it is still not fully accomplished [128]. As a result, more unified vegetables-based initiatives are predicted to boost the production of toxic component-free palatable plant parts. Quality exchange/change in articulation of particular receptor/chemical/component carrier may also be used to effectively regulate the retention of hazardous components in vegetable yields. The adjustment of exudates of rootsgives a powerful measure to stifle harmful components in soil. This process canprovide forestalling of the passage of TEs into the jungle. Endeavors can promptly begin in those harvests on which denselyspread population depends for food. One main consideration is the absence of subsidizing [129], with the goal that the consumer sector is fundamental to produce successful financing for TEs research. TEs tainting by and by exists in regular assets, yet, whenever kept up beneath as far as possible, long haul biological system imperativeness can be kept up without influencing the natural way of life.

Ranchers should be educated about the dangers of using excessive amounts of compost and other synthetics, as well as the natural hazards of flooding crops in various water bodies (wastewater, sewage, and mechanical water) so as to balance the requirement for vegetables growth with low TE levels. Ability to manage environmental sources, like soil and water, helps maintaining sustainability for crops cultivation. The information gathered should include wastewater quality indexing data to support for aquatic system water testing at rural areas to establish public health. Capable organizations should complete general wellbeing schooling inside the utilization region to teach people in general the possible impacts of unpredictable waste usage risks and the wellbeing perils related to the use of vegetables developed using untreated/contaminated. It should be capable of measuring TEs contamination & supplement stacking of aquatic system and soils to secure wellbeing, both [130] of ranchers and buyers. Considering the expected harmfulness, diligent nature and combined conduct just as the utilization organic materials and vegetables, it is essential to test the breakdown of food materials to guarantee the number of impurities concerning modern day issues. Standard overview and observing projects of the grouping of TEs in food items have been done for quite a long time in the vast majority of the created nations and similar practices ought to be carried out in agricultural nations.


9. Conclusion

Natural impurities, food handling and safety, and health of humans are inter-connected. The presence of Heavy metals in the climate has increased altogether in late many years. Wellsprings of Heavy metal in crops can change in the creating and created world. Heavy metal exchange from ground soil to trim frameworks is unpredictable and requires complex components. Synergistic harmfulness of metals in food crops is also a major metal poisoning and contamination issue. The human wellbeing hazards have been broadly explored on a worldwide scale, however a couple of those works have utilized appropriate epidemiological techniques. To forestall wellbeing chances, existing remediation alternatives center around lessening the convergence of hefty metals in soil and the natural way of life. Fast and precise planning of soil contamination is expected to forestall the exchange of metallic toxins into the natural pecking order and to figure reasonable remediation techniques. Eco-attainable mechanical advancements, for example, nano-devices and the consciousness of ranchers could support neighborhood economies and vocations with certain monetary assurances.


Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Funding statement



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Written By

Vanisree C.R., Mahipal Singh Sankhla, Prashant Singh, Ekta B. Jadhav, Rohit Kumar Verma, Kumud Kant Awasthi, Garima Awasthi and Varad Nagar

Submitted: 27 November 2021 Reviewed: 08 December 2021 Published: 18 January 2022