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Year : 2022  |  Volume : 45  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 54-61  

Heavy metal contamination in water sources of Thaliparamba municipality, Kerala, India

1 Department of Physics, Sir Syed College, Kannur, Kerala, India
2 Department of Physics, Government College Kasaragod, Kasaragod, Kerala, India
3 Department of Geography, Kannur University, Payyanur Campus, Kannur, India
4 Department of Physics, Calicut University, Malappuram, Kerala, India
5 Department of Chemistry, Sir Syed College, Kannur, Kerala, India

Date of Submission23-Jun-2021
Date of Decision28-Jan-2022
Date of Acceptance17-Feb-2022
Date of Web Publication28-Jun-2022

Correspondence Address:
T P Nafeesa Baby
Department of Physics, Sir Syed College, Thaliparamba, Kannur - 670 142, Kerala
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/rpe.rpe_25_21

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The present study is an attempt to assess the heavy metal contamination in the water sources of Thaliparamaba Municipality, Kannur district, Kerala. The concentration of heavy metals, namely As, Cr, Fe, Mn, Cu, Zn, Ni, Cd, Hg, and Pb in water samples was measured using X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy. The physicochemical parameters, namely pH, electrical conductivity, and salinity of the water samples were also measured. The results indicate that the concentration of most of the heavy metals in water samples collected from the study area is much higher than the permissible limits. The anthropogenic activities may influence the enhanced level of heavy metal concentration in the study area. The results of these systematic investigations are presented and discussed in detail in the manuscript.

Keywords: Contamination, heavy metals, Kerala, water sources

How to cite this article:
Nafeesa Baby T P, Vineethkumar V, Shimod K P, Vishnu C V, Jayadevan S. Heavy metal contamination in water sources of Thaliparamba municipality, Kerala, India. Radiat Prot Environ 2022;45:54-61

How to cite this URL:
Nafeesa Baby T P, Vineethkumar V, Shimod K P, Vishnu C V, Jayadevan S. Heavy metal contamination in water sources of Thaliparamba municipality, Kerala, India. Radiat Prot Environ [serial online] 2022 [cited 2022 Nov 27];45:54-61. Available from: https://www.rpe.org.in/text.asp?2022/45/1/54/348726

  Introduction Top

Water is one of the basic needs of all living organisms. Groundwater is the major source of drinking water in both urban and rural areas.[1] Human activities have created a huge decline in the availability of freshwater. As the demand for freshwater increased, the use of groundwater has also been increased. About 80% of fresh water in the environment is polluted due to the miss management of freshwater sources.[2] One of the main reasons behind the degradation of the natural ecosystem is the release of contaminated wastewater to natural sources. Water pollution is the biggest environmental crisis faced by mankind globally. Anthropogenic activities are the major contributing source of water pollution in the environment. The use of fertilizers and pesticides in the agricultural fields, use of wide range of chemicals in industries and manufacturing factories, and other man-made activities have created a huge impact on polluting water bodies globally.

Among the various environmental pollutants, heavy metals pose severe impacts on drinking water as well as the aquatic ecosystem because of their toxicity, persistence, and bioaccumulation characteristics. Heavy metals are an important class of environmental pollutants which are toxic even at low concentration and diffused into the water column by both natural and anthropogenic processes.[3],[4],[5] During natural processes such as weathering and erosion, landslides, volcanic eruption, flood, forest fires, decomposition and leaching, the metal get dispersed into the residual soil and gradually gets transported to adjacent water bodies. Apart from natural origin, heavy metals are diffused into water bodies by groundwater dissolution from sediments, surface runoff and atmospheric deposition as a result of various anthropogenic inputs such as mining, metallurgic activities, fertilizers, pesticides, wastewater irrigation, domestic effluents, sewage sludges, industrial emission from powerplants, smelters, foundries, petroleum combustion, automobile exhaust emission, etc.[6],[7],[8],[9]

Even though the presence of toxic heavy metals in the aquatic system is comparatively low, several studies showed that there was a rise in heavy metal contamination in water bodies as a consequence of various anthropogenic activities over the past couple of years. Once the heavy metal enters the water body, it may get dissolved into ions or complexes. Less soluble heavy metals remain suspended in particulate form or settle down in the bed sediments. Soluble heavy metals are considered highly toxic due to its mobility and bioavailability. When the heavy metal concentration exceeds the safe limits, it adversely affects the well-being of species and disturbs the stability of the ecosystem. It also results in a loss in water quality which makes water not suitable for drinking purposes. Heavy metal contamination in water bodies has a huge impact on the food chain. Consumption of heavy metal contaminated aquatic organisms provides a pathway for these metals to enter higher organisms in the food web including human beings. Enrichment of heavy metals in successive trophic levels of the food chain was also observed. Hence, knowledge about the status of heavy metal contamination in water bodies has considerable impact and importance as far as public health is concerned.[10],[11],[12],[13]

In view of these aspects, an attempt has been made to assess the quality of water in the open wells present in the Thaliparamaba municipal region of Kannur district of Kerala. The concentration of heavy metals and physico-chemical parameters in drinking water was measured using well-established techniques. The results obtained from the present investigation are discussed and possible conclusions were presented in detail.

  Materials and Methods Top

In the present investigation, the Global Navigation Satellite System (Juno-SA-handheld) is used to identify the latitude and longitude of the sampling locations. Arc GIS10.0 version is used to draw the location maps of the study area. The concentration of heavy metals in water samples was measured using X-ray fluorescence (XRF) spectrometer.[14] The physico-chemical parameters in water samples were measured using appropriate techniques and methods.

Study area

In the present study, Thaliparamba Municipality is selected as the study area. Thaliparamba (also known as Perimchellur) is one of the nine municipalities in Kannur district. It is located at 12.05°N latitude and 75.35°E longitude. It has an average elevation of 56 meters above mean sea level. The municipality has 41 wards covering an area of 43.08 sq. km, having a total population of 72,465 with 33,779 males and 38,686 females. It has a population density of 1682 person/sq. km and a sex ratio of 1187 females/1000 males. The municipality area is surrounded by Pattuvam, Pariyaram, Kurumathur, Ezhome Panchayth, and Anthur Municipality. The Kuppam and Valapattanam are the major water bodies flowing through the region. [Figure 1] shows the location map of the study area.
Figure 1: Location map of the study area

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Sample collection and mineral analysis

A total of 40 open wells located in Thaliparamba Municipality which are mainly used for drinking and household purposes have been identified for the present study. The latitude and longitude of the sampling locations are given in [Table 1]. The drinking water samples were collected in prewashed and sterilized polyethylene bottles. About 3 L of water samples were collected directly from each open well following standard procedures during the month of February 2021. The water samples were collected and brought to the laboratory for further analysis. The concentration of heavy metals viz. Al, As, Cl, Cr, Fe, Mn, Cu, Zn, Ni, Cd, Hg, and Pb in water samples were measured using XRF spectrometer (Spectro Xepos).[14] The physico-chemical parameters of the water samples such as pH, electrical conductivity, and salinity were measured following standard procedures.[15]
Table 1: Latitude and longitude of the sampling locations

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  Results and Discussion Top

The concentration of heavy metals in drinking water sources of Thaliparamba municipality is tabulated in [Table 2]. The statistical parameters of the concentration of heavy metals are given in [Table 3]. The most abundant element present in the earth's crust is Al. These are found in natural waters in trace amounts. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the amount of Al should not exceed 0.2 ppm for safe drinking water.[16] The present study shows that all 40 samples exceed the level of Al in drinking water. The increased level of Al in drinking water causes vomiting, skin rashes, nausea, diarrhea, arthritic pain, and mouth ulcers. These effects from the exposure of Al do not last longer, mostly mild and short-lived.[17]
Table 2: Concentration of heavy metals in water samples

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Table 3: Statistical parameters of heavy metals concentration in water samples

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A trace amount of As in drinking can cause disturbances to blood circulation, severe vomiting, damage to the nervous system, and eventually death. According to WHO, the safe limit of As in drinking water is 0.01 ppm. The results show that, the concentration of As in the sampling locations viz. S17 (0.031 ppm), S19 (0.021), S23 (0.024), S35 (0.036), S39 (0.041), and S40 (0.022) exceeds the permissible limit. Consumption of excess concentration of chlorinated water may results in bladder cancer.[17] In the present study, the concentration of Cl in the drinking water is very low when compared with the safe limit (5 ppm) suggested by WHO.[16] Chromium is considered as one of the important elements causing pollution and also very essential for the ecosystem. Generally, the amount of Cr in drinking water is very less ranging from 10 to 50 μg/l.[18]

The Fe alone does not make any health risk to the people. When the concentration of Fe in the water is much higher, it can remove disinfectants like Cl. This helps in the growth of bacteria like legionella, which causes Legionnaire's disease. According to WHO, the permissible limit of Fe is 0.3 ppm.[21] The concentration of Fe in all the collected water samples is very much higher than the permissible limit given by WHO.

In the human body, an excess amount of Cr for a long term can cause nerve tissue damages, kidney, liver, and health problems such as allergic dermatitis.[19],[20] The results show that the concentration of Cr in all the samples collected from the study area exceeds the permissible limit 50 ppb suggested by the WHO.[16] Long-term use of this water can cause serious health problems.

Manganese is one of the most important elements for the survival of humans. It is necessary for respiratory enzymes and helps in the normal development of connective tissues. Kidney, liver, and pancreas in mitochondrial fraction of human body have a high concentration of Mn. The increased level of Mn can cause serious diseases such as liver damage.[22],[23] According to WHO, the amount of Mn should not exceed 400 ppb for safe drinking water.[16] The results indicate that all the water samples collected from the study area exceed the level of Mn. Copper is necessary for a healthy human body. Too much consumption of Cu is harmful and causes diarrhea, nausea, stomach cramps, vomiting, liver damage, and kidney diseases. The permissible limit of Cu in drinking water suggested by WHO is 2000 ppb.[16] The results indicate the concentration of Cu in all the collected water samples is within the safe limit. Zinc is an important element for all living organisms for their metabolic and physiological process. Zn can be toxic when consumed in a large amount. The presence of Zn in the human body exceeds the permissible limit may cause vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, and stomach cramps occurred 3–12 days from ingestion.[17] The permissible limit of Zn in safe drinking water suggested by WHO is 300 ppb.[16] The analysis shows the sampling locations viz. S19 (4100 ppb) and S29 (3240 ppb) show a higher concentration of Zn than the permissible limit.

WHO suggested that the permissible limit of Ni in drinking water is 20 ppb.[16] The concentration of Ni in the sampling locations viz. S5 (26 ppb), S8 (36 ppb), S9 (24 ppb), S11 (21 ppb), S14 (21ppb), S16 (23ppb), S17 (28ppb), S26 (23ppb), S29 (24ppb), S35 (25ppb) are exceeds the permissible limit. When the concentration of Ni present in the human body increases, it develops many health problems, as it becomes highly carcinogenic. Mostly Cd occurs in association with Zn. Cd becomes toxic when the concentration exceeds a certain limit. It is responsible for adverse changes in arteries of the human kidney, emphysema, bronchiolitis, and alveolitis.[23],[24] The permissible limit of Cd in safe drinking water is 3 ppb and the results show that only the water sample from S15 (3.5 ppb) slightly exceeds the recommended value.

The permissible limit of Hg in drinking water suggested by WHO is 1 ppb.[16] The concentration of Hg in most of the water samples collected is higher than the safe limit. A high dose of Hg in the human body causes nervousness, changes in the vision of hearing, irritability, and difficulties with memory.[25] Lead is one of the most toxic elements as it is very harmful even in trace amounts.[26] The element affects the human body in numerous ways. Health problems like increased blood pleasure, cardiovascular effects, decreased kidney functions, hypertension, damage to nervous connections, brain disorders, reproductive problems, anemia, hematological damage in humans are being observed.[23],[27] The desirable limit of Pb in safe drinking water is 10 ppb.[16] The study reveals that the amount of Pb in all 40 samples is within the permissible limit. Therefore, it does not affect the people residing in and around the Thaliparamba Municipality. [Figure 2] shows the spatial distribution of the concentration of heavy metals.
Figure 2: Spatial distribution of heavy metals

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The heavy metals concentration in water samples of Thaliparamba municipality was compared with the values reported in other regions of the world [Table 4]. The comparison study shows that the heavy metals concentration measured from the present investigation was comparable with the values reported in other parts of the world.
Table 4: Comparison of heavy metals concentration with other regions

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The physico-chemical parameters of the water samples are summarized in [Table 5] and the statistical parameters of the physico-chemical parameters are given in [Table 6]. The pH value of the water samples varies from 5.15 to 10.49 with a mean value 7.83. According to WHO, the permissible limit of pH for drinking water is 6.5–8.[16] The electrical conductivity of the sample ranges from 29.25 μS/m to 470.06 μS/m with a mean value of 182.04 μS/m. The salinity of water varies from 17.27 ppm to 82.24 ppm with a mean value of 50.27 ppm. The pH value of most of the water samples collected from the Thaliparamaba Municipality is not within the safe limit.
Table 5: Physicochemical parameters of water samples

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Table 6: Statistical parameters of physicochemical parameters of water samples

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The Pearson's correlation test has been used to study the correlation between the concentration of heavy metals (Al, As, Cr, Fe, Mn, Cu, Zn, Ni, Cd, Hg, and Pb) and the physico-chemical parameters (pH, electrical conductivity, and salinity) of the water samples collected from Thaliparamba Municipality. The Pearson's correlation matrix is shown in [Table 7]. The correlation coefficient values below -0.5 and above 0.5 were selected for the present investigation. The significant correlations in the significant level of 0.01 (2-tailed) are given in bold phase in the table. A significant positive correlation is observed between the concentration of Cr and Zn with a correlation coefficient, R = 0.716. The physicochemical parameters namely salinity and pH value of the water sample did not possess any impact on the heavy metal concentrations.
Table 7: Pearson's correlation matrix

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  Conclusions Top

The present investigation clearly indicates that most of the heavy metal concentration in drinking water is much higher when compared with the standard limits. The increased concentration of heavy metals in the environment of Thaliparamba Municipality is may be due to the anthropogenic activities by the people. The concentration of heavy metals in water bodies of the study area is literally high maybe because of the discharge of domestic effluents, runoff water from road sand heavy metal-based industries, industrial emission from smelters, automobile exhaust emission, emission from industrial and domestic heating, human excreta, etc. Most of the water samples were polluted by heavy metals in excess quantities. The water from the study area should be consumed only after proper purification. In-depth studies and periodic monitoring of heavy metals in drinking water are needed to find out the actual reason behind the higher concentration of heavy metals prevailing in the study area.

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Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

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  [Figure 1], [Figure 2]

  [Table 1], [Table 2], [Table 3], [Table 4], [Table 5], [Table 6], [Table 7]


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