Heavy metals in air: Analysis using instrument, air pollution and human health - A review


  • Siti Noor Syuhada Muhammad Amin Universiti Sultan Zainal Abidin (UniSZA)
  • Azman Azid Universiti Sultan Zainal Abidin (UniSZA)
  • Muhamad Shirwan Abdullah Sani International Islamic University Malaysia
  • Ku Mohd Kalkausar Ku Yusof Universiti Sultan Zainal Abidin
  • Mohd Saiful Samsudin Universiti Sultan Zainal Abidin
  • Nurul Latiffah Abd Rani Universiti Sultan Zainal Abidin
  • Saiful Iskandar Khalit Universiti Sultan Zainal Abidin




Heavy metal, the principle analysis, human health, toxic, air pollution


Air pollution can harm human health, the environment and cause property damage. Various researches have proven the connection of air quality and human health. The epidemiology and laboratory studies demonstrated that ambient air pollutants (for example PM, O3, SO2 and NO2) contributed to various respiratory problems including bronchitis, emphysema and asthma. This present mini review is to discuss the relationship between the human health and air quality. This conceptual paper is focusing on the findings from air quality literature review and the significant health effects related to it. Besides, the principle of analytical instrumentation also discussed in order to identify the best instrument for applying in laboratory analysis.

Author Biographies

Siti Noor Syuhada Muhammad Amin, Universiti Sultan Zainal Abidin (UniSZA)

Faculty of Health Sciences, Universiti Sultan Zainal Abidin

Azman Azid, Universiti Sultan Zainal Abidin (UniSZA)

Faculty Bioresources and Food Industry, Universiti Sultan Zainal Abidin

Muhamad Shirwan Abdullah Sani, International Islamic University Malaysia

International Institute for Halal Research and Training, International Islamic University Malaysia

Ku Mohd Kalkausar Ku Yusof, Universiti Sultan Zainal Abidin

Faculty Bioresources and Food Industry, Universiti Sultan Zainal Abidin

Mohd Saiful Samsudin, Universiti Sultan Zainal Abidin

Faculty Bioresources and Food Industry, Universiti Sultan Zainal Abidin

Nurul Latiffah Abd Rani, Universiti Sultan Zainal Abidin

Faculty Bioresources and Food Industry, Universiti Sultan Zainal Abidin

Saiful Iskandar Khalit, Universiti Sultan Zainal Abidin

Faculty Bioresources and Food Industry, Universiti Sultan Zainal Abidin


Aelion, C. M., Davis, H. T., McDermott, S. and Lawson, A. B. 2008. Metal concentrations in rural top soil in South Carolina: Potential for human health impact. Science of the Total Environment, 402: 149–156.

Abdel-Shafy, H. I., Hindy, K. T. and Abdel-Sabour, M. F. 1992. Heavy metal level in the environmental of Ismailia City, Egypt. Journal of Environmental Studies, 39: 279–289.

Adani, M., Mircea, M., D’Isidoro, M., Costa, M. P. and Silibello, C. 2015. Heavy metal modelling study over Italy: Effects of grid resolution, lateral boundary conditions and foreign emissions on air concentrations. Water, Air, & Soil Pollution, 226(46): 1-10.

Afridi, H. I., Kazi, T. G., Kazi, N., Kandhro, G. A., Baig, J. A., Jamali, M. K., Shah, A. Q. 2011. Interactions between cadmium and zinc in the biological samples of pakistani smokers and nonsmokers cardiovascular disease patients. Biological Trace Element Research, 139: 257-268.

Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. 2000. Toxicological Profile for Arsenic. Atlanta, GA: US Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service.

Ahmed, F. and Ishiga, H. 2006. Trace metal concentrations in street dusts of Dhaka city, Bangladesh. Atmospheric Environment, 40(3): 835–3844.

Akoto, O., Bismark Eshun, F., Darko, G. and Adei, E. 2014. Concentrations and health risk assessments of heavy metals in fish from the Fosu Lagoon. International Journal of Environmental Research, 8(2): 403-410.

Anderson, J. and Fitzgerald, C. 2010. Iron: An essential nutrient review. [Online]. From: http://www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/foodnut/09356.html. [Acessed on December 2017].

Angelova, M., Asenova, S., Nedkova, V. and Koleva-Kolarova, R. 2011. Copper in the human organism. Trakia Journal of Sciences, 9(1): 88-98.

Ashikin, N., Mabahwi, B., Ling, O., Leh, H. and Omar, D. 2014. Human health and wellbeing: Human health effect of air pollution. Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences, 153: 221–229.

Attri, S., Sharma, N., Jahagirdar, S., Thapa, B. R.. and Prasad, R. 2006. Erythrocyte metabolism and antioxidant status of patients with Wilson disease with hemolytic anemia. Pediatric Research, 59(4 Part 1): 593.

Azaman, F., Juahir, H., Yunus, K., Azid, A. Kamarudin, M. K. A., Toriman, M. E. Mustafa, A. D., Amran, M. A., Hasnam, C. N. C. and Saudi, A. S. M., 2015. Heavy metal in fish: Analysis and human health – a review. Jurnal Teknologi, 77 (1): 61-69.

Barceloux, D. G. and Barceloux, D. (1999). Nickel. Journal of Toxicology: Clinical Toxicology, 37(2): 239-258.

Bian, B., Zhou, L.J., Li, L., Lv, L. and Fan, Y.M. 2015. Risk assessment of heavy metals in air, water, vegetables, grains, and related soils irrigated with biogas slurry in Taihu Basin, China. Environmental Science and Pollution Research, 22: 7794–7807.

Botkin, D. B. and Keller, E. A. 2007. Environmental science: Earth as a living planet. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

Chasapis, C. T., Loutsidou, A., Spiliopoulou, C. A. and Stefanidou, M. E. 2012. Zinc and human health: An update. Archives of Toxicology, 86: 521-534.

Chaudhari, P. R., Gupta, R., Gajghate, D. G. and Wate, S. R. 2012. Heavy metal pollution of ambient air in Nagpur City. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment, 184:2487–2496.

Chen, M. and Ma, L. Q. 2001. Comparison of three aqua regia digestion methods for twenty Florida soils. Soil Science Society of America Journal, 65: 491–499.

Cunningham, B., Cunningham, M. A. and Saigo, B. W. 2005. Environmental science: A global concern (8th ed.). Boston: McGraw Hill.

De-Miguel, E., Iribarren, I., Chaco´n, E., Ordon˜ez, A. and Charlesworth, S. 2007. Risk-based evaluation of the exposure of children to trace elements in playgrounds in Madrid (Spain). Chemosphere, 66: 505–513.

Devesa, V., Velez, D. and Montoro, R. 2008. Effect of thermal treatments on arsenic species contents in food. Food and Chemical Toxicology, 46: 1-8.

Dorsey, A., Ingerman, L. and Swarts, S. 2004. Toxicological Profile for Copper, Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, United States Department of Health and Human Services, Atlanta, Georgia.

Drobyshev, A. I. and Emelina, O. I. 2001. Analysis of atmospheric aerosols by atomic emission spectroscopy with electrical discharge sampling. Journal of Analytical Chemistry, 56: 577–580.

Enger, E. D. and Smith, B. F. 2000. Environmental Science: A Study of Interrelationships (7th Ed.). Boston, Mass: Mcgraw-Hill.

Erdman Jr, J. W., Macdonald, I. A. and Zeisel, S. H. (Eds.). 2012. Present Knowledge in Nutrition. 10th edition. A John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., Publication.

Failla, M. L., Johnson, M. A., Prohaska, J. R. 2001. Copper. In: Present Knowledge in Nutrition. Washington D.C.: Life Sciences Institute Press. 373-383.

Faiz, Y., Tufail, M., Javed, M. T., Chaudhry, M. M. and Siddique, N. 2009. Road dust pollution of Cd, Cu, Ni, Pb and Zn along Islamabad expressway, Pakistan. Microchemical Journal, 92, 186-192.

Fernandes, C., Fontaínhas-Fernandes, A., Cabral, D. and Salgado, M. A. 2008. Heavy metals in water, sediment and tissues of Liza saliens from Esmoriz-Paramos Lagoon, Portugal. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment, 136(1-3): 267-75.

Forti, E., Salovaara, S., Cetin, Y., Bulgheroni, A., Tessadri, R., Jennings, P., Prieto, P. 2011. In vitro evaluation of the toxicity induced by nickel soluble and particulate forms in human airway epithelial cells. Toxicology in Vitro, 25(2): 454-461.

García-lestón, J., Mendez, J., Pásaro, E. and Laffon, B. 2010. Author’s personal copy genotoxic effects of lead : An updated review. Environment International, 36: 623-636.

Gharaibeh, A. A., El-Rjoob, A.-W. O. and Harb, M. K. 2010. Determination of selected heavy metals in air samples from the northern part of Jordan. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment, 160:425–429.

Gu, Y., Kodama, H., Sato, E., Mochizuki, D., Yanagawa, Y., Takayanagi, M., Lee, C. 2002. Prenatal diagnosis of menkes disease by genetic analysis and copper measurement. Brain & Development, 24: 715-718.

Hao, Y., Chen, L., Zhang, X., Zhang, D., Zhang, X., Yu, Y. and Fu, J. 2013. Trace elements in fish from Taihu Lake, China : Levels, associated risks, and trophic transfer. Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety, 90: 89-97.

Hassanien, M. A. 2009. Atmospheric heavy metals pollution: Exposure and prevention policies in Mediterranean Basin. In L. I. Simeonov et al. (eds.), Environmental Heavy Metal Pollution and Effects on Child Mental Development: Risk Assessment and Prevention Strategies. Pp. 287-307.

Hsan, G. 2008. The effect of heavy metals on peroxidase from Jerusalem artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus L.) tubers. African Journal of Biotechnology, 7, 2248–2253.

Ikem, A. and Egilla, J. 2008. Trace element content of fish feed and Bluegill Sunfish (Lepomis Macrochirus) from aquaculture and wild source in Missouri. Food Chemistry, 110(2): 301-309.

Kampa, M. and Castanas, E. 2008. Human health effects of air pollution. Environmental Pollution, 151(2): 362-367.

Karl, X. Y., Swami, K. and Liaquat, H. 2002. Determination of trace 264 metals in atmospheric aerosols with a heavy matrix of cellulose by 265 microwave digestion-inductively coupled plasma mass spectroscopy. Spectrochimica Acta, 57, 73–84.

Kazi, T. G., Wadhwa, S. K., Afridi, H. I., Kazi, N., Kandhro, G. A., Baig, J. A., Arain, M. B. 2010. Interaction of cadmium and zinc in biological samples of smokers and chewing tobacco female mouth cancer patients. Journal of Hazardous Materials, 176: 985-991.

Kemp, D. D. 2004. Exploring environmental issues: An integrated approach. London, United Kingdom: Routledge.

Khillare, P. S., Balachandran, S. and Bharat, R. M. 2004. Special and temporal variation of heavy metal in atmospheric aerosol of Delhi. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment, 90: 1–21.

Koyashiki, G. A. K., Paoliello, M. M. B. and Tchounwou, P. B. 2010. Lead levels in human milk and children’s health risk: A systematic review. Rev Environmrntal Health, 25(3): 243–253.

Krishna, P., Jyothirmayi, V. and Madhusudhana Rao, K. 2014. Human health risk assessment of heavy metal accumulation through fish consumption, from Machilipatnam Coast, Andhra Pradesh, India. International Research Journal of Public and Environmental Health, 1(5): 121-125.

Mateu, J., Mirabo, F. B., Forteza, R., Cerda, V., Colom, M. and Oms, M. 1999. Heavy metals in the aerosols collected at two stations in Mallorca (Spain). Water, Air, and Soil Pollution,112: 349–363.

Messner, B., Knoflach, M., Seubert, A., Ritsch, A., Pfaller, K., Henderson, B., Bernhard, D. 2009. Cadmium is a novel and independent risk factor for early atherosclerosis mechanisms and in vivo relevance. Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology, 1392-1398.

Moreno-Grau, S., Perez-Tornell, A., Moreno-Grau, J. and Moreno-Clavel, J. 1997. Determination of lead in aerosol sample collected on glass fiber filters by an improved atomic absorption spectrometry method. Water, Air, and Soil Pollution, 96: 145–153.

Moreno-Grau, S., Tornell, A., Bayo, J., Moreno, J., Angosto, J. M. and Moreno-Clavel, J. 2000. Particulate matter and heavy metals in the atmospheric aerosol from Cartagena, Spain. Atmospheric Environment, 34: 5161–5167.

Nagajyoti, P. C., Lee, K. D. and Sreekanth, T. V. M. 2010. Heavy metals, occurrence and toxicity for plants: A review. Environmental Chemistry Letters, 8: 199–216.

Perl, D. P. and Olanow, C.W. 2007. The neuropathology of manganese-induced parkinsonism. Journal of Neuropathology & Experimental Neurology, 66: 675-682.

Radojevic, M., and Bashkin, V. N. 2006. Practical Environmental Analysis. London, UK: Royal Society of Chemistry.

Rahman, M. and Islam, M. 2010. Adsorption of Cd (II) ions from synthetic waste water using maple sawdust adsorption of Cd (II) ions from synthetic waste water using maple sawdust. Energy Sources, Part A. 32: 222-231.

Rahman, M. S., Molla, A. H., Saha, N. and Rahman, A. 2012. Study on heavy metals levels and its risk assessment in some edible fishes from Bangshi River, Savar, Dhaka, Bangladesh. Food Chemistry, 134(4): 1847-1854.

Roussel, A., Andriollo-sanchez, M., Ferry, M., Bryden, N. A. and Anderson, R. A. 2007. Food chromium content, dietary chromium intake and related biological variables in French free-living elderly. British Journal of Nutrition, 98: 326-331.

Sadiq, R., Husain, T., Bose, N. and Veitch, B. 2003. Distribution of heavy metals in sediment pore water due to offshore discharges: An ecological risk assessment. Environmental Modelling & Software, 18: 451-461.

Saha, N. and Zaman, M. R. 2013. Evaluation of possible health risks of heavy metals by consumption of foodstuffs available in the central market of Rajshahi City, Bangladesh. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment, 185: 3867-3878.

Salnikow, K. and Kasprzak, K. S. 2005. Ascorbate depletion: A critical step in nickel carcinogenesis? Environmental Health Perspectives, 113(5): 577–584.

Samsudin, M. S., Khalit, S. I., Azid, A., Yunus, K., Zaudi, M. A., Badaluddin, N. A. and Saudi, A. S. M., 2017. Spatial analysis of heavy metals in mangrove estuary at east coast peninsular malaysia: A preliminary study. Journal of Fundamental and Applied Sciences, 9(2): 680-697.

Sarkar, B. 1999. Treatment of Wilson and Menkes Diseases. Chemical Reviews, 99: 2535-2544.

Schnaas, L., Rothenberg, S. J., Flores, M., Martinez, S., Hernandez, C., Osorio, E., Perroni, E. 2006. Reduced intellectual development in children with prenatal lead exposure. Environmental Health Perspectives. 114(5): 791-797.

Sezgin, N., Ozcan, H.K., Demir, G., Nemlioglu, S. and Bayat, C. 2003. Determination of heavy metal concentrations in street dusts in Istanbul E-5 highway. Environment International, 29: 979 – 985.

Silvia, M. S., Annibal, D. P. N. A. D., Pereira, N., Emmanoel, V. S. F. and Martha, T. A. 2004. Short term and spatial variation of selected metals in the atmosphere of Niteroi City, Brazil. Microchemical Journal, 78, 85–90.

Song, Y., Chung, C. S., Bruno, R. S., Traber, M. G., Brown, K. H., King, J. C. and Ho, E. 2009. Dietary zinc restriction and repletion affects DNA integrity in healthy men. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 90: 321-328.

Song, Y., Elias, V., Loban, A., Scrimgeour, A. G. and Ho, E. 2010. Marginal zinc deficiency increases oxidative dna damage in the prostate after chronic exercise. Free Radical Biology and Medicine, 48: 82-88.

Soon, Y. K. and Abboud, S. 1993. Cadmium, chromium, nickel. In M. R. Carter (Ed). Soil Sampling and Methods of Analysis. pp. 101–108, Fla, USA: Lewis, Boca Raton,.

Srivastava, N. K. and Majumder, C. B. 2008. Novel biofiltration methods for the treatment of heavy metals from industrial wastewater. Journal of Hazardous Materials, 151, 1–8.

Stern, B. R., Solioz, M., Krewski, D., Aggett, P., Aw, T.-C., Baker, S., Starr, T. 2007. Copper and human health: Biochemistry, genetics, and strategies for modeling dose-response relationships. Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health. 10: 157-222.

Stipanuk, M. H. and Caudill, M. A. 2012. Biochemical, Physiological, and Molecular Aspects of Human Nutrition. 3rd Edition. Philadelphia: Elsevier Saundre Publishing.

Taraškevičius, R., Zinkutė, R., Stakėnienė, R. and Radavičius, M. 2013. Case study of the relationship between aqua regia and real total contents of harmful trace elements in some European soils. Jurnal of Chemistry.

Thomas, L. D. K., Hodgson, S., Nieuwenhuijsen, M. and Jarup, L. 2009. Early kidney damage in a population exposed to cadmium and other heavy metals. Environmental Health Perspectives. 117(2): 181-184.

Thomas, R. 2008. Practical Guide to ICP-MS: A Tutorial for Beginners (Second Edition). Boca Raton, Florida: CRC Press.

Tulasi, G. and Rao, K. J. 2014. Essentiality of chromium for human health and dietary nutrition. Journal of Entomology and Zoology Studies, 2(1): 107-108.

Tyler, G. and Jobin Yvon, S. 1995. ICP-OES, ICP-MS and AAS Techniques Compared. ICP Optical Emission Spectroscopy Technical Note 5. New Jersey: Edison.

Umar A, Umar R, Ahmad M. S. 2001. Hydrogeological and hydrochemical frame works of regional aquter system in Kali-Ganga Sub-Basin, India. Environmental Geology, 40(4-5): 602-611.

Vasconcelos, M. T. S. D. and Tavares, H. M. F. 1997. Atmospheric metal pollution (Cr, Cu, Fe, Mn, Ni, Pb and Zn) in Oporto City derived from results for low-volume aerosol samplers. The Science of the Total Environment, 212: 11–20.

Vercoutere, K., Fortunati, U., Muntau, H., Griepink, B. and Maier, E.A. 1995. The certified reference materials CRM 142 R light sandy soil, CRM 143 R sewage sludge amended soil and CRM145 R sewage sludge for quality control in monitoring environmental and soil pollution. Fresenius' Journal tyof Analytical Chemistry, 352:197–202.

Vettori, M. V., Alinovi, R., Belletti, S., Goldoni, M., Franchini, I. and Multi, A. 2003. In vitro model for the evaluation of the neurotoxicity of methyl mercury. Current state of knowledge. La Medicina del lavoro (MED LAV). 94-183.

Wagner, T. 1994. In our backyard: A guide to understanding pollution and its effects. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold.

Zheng, G., Tian, L., Liang, Y., Broberg, K., Lei, L., Guo, W., Nilsson, J., Bergdahl, I. A., Skerfving, S., Jin, T. 2011. δ-Aminolevulinic acid dehydratase genotype predicts toxic effects of lead on workers’ peripheral nervous system. Neurotoxicology, 32: 374-382.