Distribution, contents and health risk assessment of metal(loid)s in small-scale farms in the Ecuadorian Amazon: An insight into impacts of oil activities

F. Barraza, L. Maurice, G. Uzu, S. Becerra, F. López, V. Ochoa-Herrera, J. Ruales, E. Schreck

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

60 Scopus citations


In the last 50 years, oil extraction activities in the Northeast Amazonian Region (NAR) of Ecuador impacted ecosystems and may still affect the local population health. To our knowledge, no previous studies have determined the concentrations of metal(loid)s in the oil Ecuadorian Amazon environment. A total of 15 small farms, located in the Orellana and Sucumbíos provinces, were sampled in order to determine the concentrations of As, Ba, Co, Cu, Cd, Cr, Mn, Mo, Ni, Pb, V and Zn in soils, crops, drinking water and air (PM10). Among non-essential metal(loid)s, Ba concentrations in soils exceeded the Ecuadorian limits of 200 mg kg− 1 in 53% of the sampling sites. In crops, Cd concentrations in cacao and Pb in manioc exceeded the FAO/WHO recommendations. In drinking water and PM10, regulated metal(loid)s did not exceed the international thresholds. Nevertheless metals such as Ba and Mo showed the highest annual mean concentrations in PM10 in both sampling sites. Natural (bedrock, volcanic ashes) and anthropogenic (oil activities, agrochemical products) sources could explain the high content of some meta(loid)s in the environment. According to the hazard quotient and cancer risk indexes, crops and water ingestion represent 71% and 88% of the exposure pathways for non-carcinogenic elements in adults and children respectively while inhalation is the main exposure pathways for carcinogenic elements for the whole population. Both indexes were 2 to 13 times higher than the US EPA recommended values. However, estimates of exposure pathways should be considered taking into account the risk perception of residents: they may be overestimated for people who are able to change their dietary and/or agricultural practices to limit their exposure, or underestimated in the case of persons who are socio-economically vulnerable and who cannot leave the impacted areas.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)106-120
Number of pages15
JournalScience of the Total Environment
StatePublished - 1 May 2018


  • Ecuadorian Amazon
  • Health risk
  • Human exposure
  • Metal(loid)s
  • Oil activities


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