Environmental factors controlling potentially toxic element behaviour in urban soils, El Tebbin, Egypt

Ibrahim Said, Salman Abd El-Raof Salman, Yousria Samy, Samir Ahmed Awad, Ahmed Melegy, Andrew Hursthouse

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16 Citations (Scopus)
41 Downloads (Pure)


This study focuses on the assessment of surface soils from industrially polluted region (El Tebbin) of southern Cairo, Egypt. The impact of agricultural, residential and industrial land use on soils developed from Nile river sediments has significantly compromised their function. Previous evidence has shown that the food chain is contaminated and enhances risk of contaminant exposure of the residential communities. This study investigates factors controlling potentially toxic element (PTE) distribution (Co, Ni, Pb, Cd, Zn, Cr and Cu) in El Tebbin soils and provide estimates of their mobility and bioavailability. The PTE concentrations are characterized by high variability as result of the variety of natural and anthropogenic influences. Highest spatial variability is found for Zn, Cd, Pb and Cu (C.V = 260.0%, 280.4%, 140.8% and 159.6% respectively) and enrichment factors indicate strong anthropogenic inputs. For Co and Ni relatively low spatial variability (C.V = 65.8% and 45.0% respectively) with depletion in Ni, suggesting a relatively minor contribution from anthropogenic sources. For Cr a more uniform distribution pattern showing depletion to minimal enrichment across the study area (C.V = 19.2%), reflecting almost exclusive lithogenic control. Using Principle component analysis (PCA) to explore concentration data reveals that the major inputs affecting PTE distribution is modified by primary soil properties (texture and pH). Their relative bioavailability (identified through sequential chemical extraction) relates strongly to local input sources. Those elements dominated by lithogenic input (Ni and Co) were found predominantly in soil residual fractions (95.6% and 90.5% respectively). While elements with stronger anthropogenic contributions (Cd, Zn, Pb and Cu) showed much higher portion in the more mobile and bioavailable fractions obtained from sequential chemical extraction, with average proportions of the totals being 62.6%, 57%, 40.7%, and 39.2% respectively. Those PTEs with strong anthropogenic influence are potentially much more mobile for bioaccumulation in food chain with increased health risk for exposed residents and is confirmed by elevated concentrations of Cd, Zn, Pb and Cu recorded in local plant species. The main pollution sources were further highlighted by cluster analysis and showed vehicle traffic and specific industrial activities but which varied significantly from site to site. The identification of sources through the approach developed here allows prioritisation of monitoring and regulatory decisions by the local government to reduce further environmental exposure of the local population
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages15
JournalEnvironmental Monitoring and Assessment
Issue number267
Publication statusPublished - May 2019


  • Potentially toxic elements
  • Urban soil
  • Sequential chemical extraction
  • Bioavailability
  • Mmultivariate statistical analysis
  • Helwan
  • Egypt


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