Environmental Chemistry Environmental Chemistry Society
Environmental problems - Chemical approaches

A Field Investigation of Solubility and Food Chain Accumulation of Biosolid-Cadmium Across Diverse Soil Types

Mike J. McLaughlin A B H , Mark Whatmuff A C , Michael Warne A , Diane Heemsbergen A , Glenn Barry D , Mike Bell E , David Nash F and Deb Pritchard G
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Centre for Environmental Contaminants Research, CSIRO Land and Water, Glen Osmond, SA 5064, Australia.

B School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, The University of Adelaide, SA 5005, Australia.

C NSW Department of Primary Industries, Locked Bag 4, Richmond, NSW 2753, Australia.

D Department of Natural Resources and Water, Indooroopilly, Qld 4068, Australia.

E Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries, Kingaroy, Qld 4610, Australia.

F Department of Primary Industries, Ellinbank, Vic. 3821, Australia.

G Curtin University of Technology, Muresk Institute, Northam, WA 6401, Australia.

H Corresponding author. Email: mike.mclaughlin@csiro.au

Environmental Chemistry 3(6) 428-432 https://doi.org/10.1071/EN06061
Submitted: 16 October 2006  Accepted: 16 November 2006   Published: 13 December 2006

Environmental Context. Cadmium is a potentially toxic metal that is an unwanted contaminant in urban wastewater biosolids, and has the potential to accumulate through the food chain. This study found that the accumulation of cadmium in wheat grain from application of urban biosolids to soils in Australia was less than when cadmium was applied in a water-soluble form. The critical soil cadmium concentration, above which wheat grain would exceed food contaminant limits, could also be simply predicted using soil pH (acidity) and clay content.

Abstract. One of the pathways for transfer of cadmium (Cd) through the food chain is addition of urban wastewater solids (biosolids) to soil, and many countries have restrictions on biosolid use to minimize crop Cd contamination. The basis of these restrictions often lies in laboratory or glasshouse experimentation of soil–plant transfer of Cd, but these studies are confounded by artefacts from growing crops in controlled laboratory conditions. This study examined soil to plant (wheat grain) transfer of Cd under a wide range of field environments under typical agronomic conditions, and compared the solubility and bioavailability of Cd in biosolids to soluble Cd salts. Solubility of biosolid Cd (measured by examining Cd partitioning between soil and soil solution) was found to be equal to or greater than that of soluble Cd salts, possibly due to competing ions added with the biosolids. Conversely, bioavailability of Cd to wheat and transfer to grain was less than that of soluble Cd salts, possibly due to addition of Zn with the biosolids, causing reduced plant uptake or grain loading, or due to complexation of soluble Cd2+ by dissolved organic matter.

Keywords. : agricultural chemistry — bioavailability — contaminant uptake — food quality — soil chemistry


The NBRP gratefully acknowledges its numerous financial supporters (see http://www.awa.asn.au/Content/NavigationMenu2/ResourceCenter/BiosolidsManagement/NationalBiosolidsResearchProgram/default.html). The authors would like to acknowledge Daryl Stevens, Kris Broos, Nancy Penney, Cathy Fiebiger, Cameron Baldock, Gillian Cozens, Ashlyn Daly, Anita Pastuhova, George Pollard, Michelle Smart, David Collins, Jo Stokes, Mathew Boomsma, Bogumila Tomczak and Tapas Biswas for assistance, and Ray Correll and Mary Barnes for advice on experimental design and statistical analysis.


[1]   Chaney R. L., Oliver D. P., in Contaminants in the Soil Environment in the Australasia-Pacific Region (Eds R. Naidu, R. Kookana, D. P. Oliver, S. R. Rogers, M. J. McLaughlin) 1996, pp. 456–478 (Kluwer Publishers: Dordrecht, The Netherlands).

[2]   M. J. McLaughlin, B. A. Zarcinas, D. P. Stevens, N. Cook, Commun. Soil Sci. Plant Anal. 2000, 31,  1661.

[3]   T. W. Speir, H. A. Kettles, H. J. Percival, A. Parshotam, Soil Biol. Biochem. 1999, 31,  1953.
        | CrossRef |   

[4]   D. P. Stevens, M. J. McLaughlin, T. Heinrich, Environ. Toxicol. Chem. 2003, 22,  3017.
        | CrossRef |   

[5]   M. P. C. De Vries, K. G. Tiller, Environ. Pollut. 1978, 16,  231.
        | CrossRef |   

[6]   Chaney R. L., in Metal Speciation – Theory, Analysis and Application (Eds J. R. Kramer, H. E. Allen) 1988, pp. 219–260 (Lewis Publishers: Chelsea, MI).

[7]   I. M. McKenna, R. L. Chaney, F. M. Williams, Environ. Pollut. 1993, 79,  113.
        | CrossRef |   

[8]   N. T. Basta, J. A. Ryan, R. L. Chaney, J. Environ. Qual. 2005, 34,  49.

[9]   J. D. Cunningham, D. R. Keeney, J. A. Ryan, J. Environ. Qual. 1975, 4,  460.

[10]   J. D. Cunningham, D. R. Keeney, J. A. Ryan, J. Environ. Qual. 1975, 4,  448.

[11]   J. D. Cunningham, J. A. Ryan, D. R. Keeney, J. Environ. Qual. 1975, 4,  455.

[12]   A. C. Chang, T. C. Granato, A. L. Page, J. Environ. Qual. 1992, 21,  521.

[13]   S. L. Brown, R. L. Chaney, J. S. Angle, J. A. Ryan, J. Environ. Qual. 1998, 27,  1071.

[14]   B. P. Knight, A. M. Chaudri, S. P. McGrath, K. E. Giller, Environ. Pollut. 1998, 99,  293.
        | CrossRef |   

[15]   Z. A. S. Ahnstrom, D. R. Parker, Environ. Sci. Technol. 2001, 35,  121.
        | CrossRef |   

[16]   McGrath S. P., in Cadmium in Soils in Plants (Eds M. J. McLaughlin, B. R. Singh) 1999, pp. 199–218 (Kluwers Academic Publishers: Dordrecht, The Netherlands).

[17]   Isbell R. K., The Australian Soil Classification 1996 (CSIRO Publishing: Melbourne).

[18]   Rayment G. R., Higginson F. R., Australian Laboratory Handbook of Soil and Water Chemical Methods 1992 (Inkata Press: Melbourne).

[19]   Gee G. W., Bauder J. W., in Methods of Soil Analysis: Part 1: Physical and Mineralogical Methods (Ed. A. Klute) 1986, pp. 383–411 (American Society for Agronomy/Soil Science Society of America: Madison, WI).

[20]   D. H. Thibault, M. I. Sheppard, Commun. Soil Sci. Plant Anal. 1992, 23,  1629.

[21]   L. L. Hendrickson, R. B. Corey, Soil Sci. 1981, 131,  163.
        | CrossRef |   

[22]   G. M. Hettiarachchi, J. A. Ryan, R. L. Chaney, C. M. La Fleur, J. Environ. Qual. 2003, 32,  1684.

Rent Article (via Deepdyve) Export Citation Cited By (54)