BACKGROUND: The concern over heavy metal(loid)s in arable land and agricultural products increases for public health in recent years. This study aims to identify transition characteristics of heavy metal(loid)s and to assess dietary risk in barley grown at the major producing districts in Korea.
METHODS AND RESULTS: The soil and barley samples were collected from 38 locations around the major producing districts at Jeollabuk in Korea for the propose of examining the concentrations of heavy metal(loid)s. The 34 barley samples were separately purchased on the market for the same survey. The average concentration and range of arsenic (As), cadmium (Cd) and lead (Pb) in barley grown at the major producing districts in Korea were 0.037 (0.016-0.094), 0.028 (0.004-0.083) and 0.137 (0.107-0.212) mg kg-1, respectively. Currently, the maximum allowable level for barley Pb is set at 0.2 mg kg-1 in Korea, and the monitoring results suggested that some samples exceeded the maximum allowable level and required appropriate farming management. Bio-concentration factor (BCF) values by heavy metal(loid)s in barley were high at Cd, copper (Cu) and zinc (Zn), similar to other crops, while As and Pb were low, indicating low transferability.
CONCLUSION: Human exposure to As, Cd and Pb through dietary intake of barley might not cause adverse health effects although the Pb in some barley was detected higher than the maximum allowable level. Further study on uptake and accumulation mechanism of Pb by barley might be required to assess the human health risk associated with soil contamination.