Serpentine minerals with high levels of geologic chromium (Cr) and nickel (Ni) and non-serpentine farmlands polluted by irrigation water causing high anthropogenic Cr and Ni levels are both found in Taiwan. Elevated levels of Cr and Ni in these soils are a concern due to their potential to promote cancer mortality in humans. Bioaccessibility is a crucial factor determining the actual health risk via oral ingestion when children are exposed to metal-contaminated soils. Furthermore, the bioaccessibility of metals varies with the source, soil properties, and fractionation of metals in the soil. Therefore in this study, soil pH, total organic carbon (TOC), texture, and the total concentrations, fractionation, and bioaccessibility of Cr and Ni were analyzed and correlated for soils collected from serpentine mineral-containing deposits and contaminated non-serpentine farmlands. The low bioaccessibility and low mobility of Cr and Ni in serpentine soils suggested that incidental ingesting of soils posed a low health risk; however, the higher bioaccessibility and mobility of Ni in non-serpentine soils contaminated by electroplating wastewater could lead to potential risks for humans. Additionally, a significant difference in the bioaccessibility of Ni was observed between serpentine and non-serpentine soils, but this was not shown for Cr. Accordingly, a correlation analysis showed that Cr bioaccessibility was positively correlated with TOC, with no distinction between serpentine and non-serpentine soils. In contrast, TOC and the fractions of the sequential extraction procedure were significantly correlated with Ni bioaccessibility both in anthropogenically contaminated non-serpentine soils and in natural serpentine soils.
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