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Open Access Highly Accessed Open Badges Research article

Application of principal component analysis in the pollution assessment with heavy metals of vegetable food chain in the old mining areas

Iosif Gergen1 and Monica Harmanescu2*

Author Affiliations

1 Banat’s University of Agricultural Science and Veterinary Medicine Timisoara, Faculty of Food Processing Technology, Calea Aradului 119, RO, 300645, Romania

2 Banat’s University of Agricultural Science and Veterinary Medicine Timisoara, Faculty of Agriculture, Calea Aradului 119, RO, 300645, Romania

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Chemistry Central Journal 2012, 6:156  doi:10.1186/1752-153X-6-156

Published: 13 December 2012



The aim of the paper is to assess by the principal components analysis (PCA) the heavy metal contamination of soil and vegetables widely used as food for people who live in areas contaminated by heavy metals (HMs) due to long-lasting mining activities. This chemometric technique allowed us to select the best model for determining the risk of HMs on the food chain as well as on people's health.


Many PCA models were computed with different variables: heavy metals contents and some agro-chemical parameters which characterize the soil samples from contaminated and uncontaminated areas, HMs contents of different types of vegetables grown and consumed in these areas, and the complex parameter target hazard quotients (THQ). Results were discussed in terms of principal component analysis.


There were two major benefits in processing the data PCA: firstly, it helped in optimizing the number and type of data that are best in rendering the HMs contamination of the soil and vegetables. Secondly, it was valuable for selecting the vegetable species which present the highest/minimum risk of a negative impact on the food chain and human health.

Heavy metals; Soils; Vegetables; Long-lasting mining activities; PCA

Graphical abstract