Ingestion and inhalation of metal(loid)s through preschool gardening: An exposure and risk assessment in legacy mining communities

Iliana Manjón, Mónica D. Ramírez-Andreotta, A. Eduardo Sáez, Robert A. Root, Joanne Hild, M. Katy Janes, Annika Alexander-Ozinskas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Children residing in mining towns are potentially disproportionately exposed to metal(loid)s via ingestion and dust inhalation, thus, increasing their exposure when engaging in school or home gardening or playing outside. This citizen science study assessed preschool children's potential arsenic (As), cadmium (Cd), and lead (Pb) exposure via locally grown produce, water, incidental soil ingestion, and dust inhalation at four sites. Participants were trained to properly collect water, soil, and vegetable samples from their preschools in Nevada County, California. As, Cd, and Pb concentrations in irrigation sources did not exceed the U.S. EPA's maximum contaminant and action levels. In general, garden and playground As and Pb soil concentrations exceeded the U.S. EPA Regional Screening Level, CalEPA Human Health Screening Level, and California Department of Toxic Substances Control Screening Level. In contrast, all Cd concentrations were below these recommended screening levels. Dust samples (<10 μm diameter) were generated from surface garden and playground soil collected at the preschools by a technique that simulated windblown dust. Soil and dust samples were then analyzed by in-vitro bioaccessibility assays using synthetic lung and gastric fluids to estimate the bioaccessible fraction of As, Cd, and Pb in the body. Metal(loid) exposure via grown produce revealed that lettuce, carrot, and cabbage grown in the preschool gardens accumulated a higher concentration of metal(loid) than those store-bought nation-wide. None of the vegetables exceeded the respective recommendation maximum levels for Cd and Pb set by the World Health Organization Codex Alimentarius Commission. The results of this study indicate that consumption of preschool-grown produce and incidental soil ingestion were major contributors to preschool-aged children's exposure to As, Cd, and Pb. Traditionally, this level of site- and age-specific assessment and analyses does not occur at contaminated sites. The results of this holistic risk assessment can inform future risk assessment and public health interventions related to childhood metal(loid) exposures.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number134639
JournalScience of the Total Environment
StatePublished - May 20 2020


  • Arsenic
  • Bioaccessibility
  • Cadmium
  • Children exposure assessment
  • Incidental soil ingestion
  • Inhalation
  • Lead
  • Mining waste
  • Plant uptake
  • Preschool gardening
  • Risk characterization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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