Transfer of metals and metalloids from soil to shoots in wild rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis L.) growing on a former lead smelter site: Human exposure risk


  • Affholder Marie-Cecile
  • Prudent Pascale
  • Masotti Veronique
  • Coulomb Bruno
  • Rabier Jacques
  • Nguyen-The Benedicte
  • Laffont-Schwob Isabelle


  • Aromatic plant
  • Health risk
  • Herbal tea
  • Trace elements mixed contamination

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This study aimed at estimating exposition risks to wild rosemary used as herbs in the contaminated area of the former smelting factory of L'Escalette (South of Marseille, France). Metals and metalloids i.e. Pb, As, Sb, Zn, and Cu concentrations were analyzed in soils and in rosemary aerial parts (stems and leaves) on two sites: one heavily contaminated and the other far away from the pollution source, considered as reference, The metal and metalloid transfer into water during the brewing process of herbal tea was also determined. A mixed contamination by the above-cited contaminants was demonstrated in soils of the factory site, with average concentrations of 9253, 1127, 309, 2698 and 32 mg/kg for Pb, As, Sb, Zn and Cu, respectively. However, metals and metalloids' transfer in rosemary aerial parts was limited, as bioaccumulation factors were under 1. Thus, Pb, As and Cu concentrations in leaves were below international regulation limits concerning ingestion of medicinal herbs (no regulation values available for Sb and Zn). This study highlighted that, if contaminated rosemary leaves were ingested, health risks may be limited since acceptable daily intake (ADI) for Pb, As, Sb and Cu (no ADI value available for Zn) will only be reached if very high quantities are consumed. Furthermore, we aimed to establish if this mixed contamination could alter rosemary's essential oil quality, and thereby the compositions of essential oils obtained from individuals on the heavily contaminated soil were compared to those obtained from the reference population. An increased biosynthesis of antioxidant compounds was favored in essential oils from rosemary individuals growing in contaminated site. Although the health risk of a long-term exposition of low level of the mixed contamination by rosemary ingestion is not easy to elucidate, the use of rosemary essential oils from contaminated site appears as safe. (C) 2013 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

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