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People in Jema’a Local Government Area of Kaduna State, consume both imported and local
fish without adequate information of likely health consequences from contamination. This
knowledge gap is filled by this study. The aim of this work was to assess the heavy metals
concentration in local and imported fish, as well as river water and sediment in the study area.
To achieve the aim, a total of 21 fish samples comprising of local fish (Barbus occidentalis,
Tilapia oreos, Clarias gariepinus) and imported fish (Ethmalosa fimbritus, Alosa fallax,
Clupea harengus), 6 water samples and 6 sediment samples from Wonderful and Magami
Rivers were collected and analysed for concentration of zinc, cadmium, iron, lead and
mercury using atomic absorption spectrophotometer. Degree of sediment contamination was
assessed using geoaccumulation index. Target hazard quotient was used to assess human
health risk in both local and imported fish. Awareness of risk associated with heavy metals in
fish consumed in the study area was also examined and three hundred and eighty four copies
of questionnaire were distributed to respondents using random sampling technique. Eight (8)
wards namely Kafanchan A, Kafanchan B, Bedde, Kagoma, Jagindi, Asso, Kaninkon, and
Gidan – Waya were chosen using purposive sampling. Data gathered from the questionnaire
were summarized using simple statistics such as tabulation frequency and percentage. Forty –
nine percent (49%) of respondents had some form of general awareness of risk in fish.
However awareness was low on chemical specific risk in fish. People were unaware of metals
in the order cadmium > iron > mercury > zinc > lead. Results of laboratory analysis shows
that cadmium risk is significant in all fish species, while risk of lead is significant in Barbus
occidentalis, Tilapia oreos, Ethmalosa fimbritus and Clupea harengus. Values of water
samples compared with NESREA guideline showed that all water samples were above
NESREA minimum acceptable standard. Geoaccumulation Index for sediments revealed that
mercury (45.2 and 44.5), cadmium (2.3 and 1.6) and lead (4.47 and 3.74) are at higher vi
contamination in sediments. The study concludes that heavy metals in fish occur at
concentrations that poses risk to human health, while in terms of awareness, depth of
knowledge about risk associated with heavy metals is still limited. The study recommends
among others, the need for enlightenment campaigns, periodic workshops and discussion
forums, as well as establishment of task force for monitoring of river ecosystem.
1.1 Background to the Study
Fish is an important source of protein which is an element necessary for the maintenance of
healthy body. It is one of the most important animal protein sources which is beneficial. It has
low saturated fat, high protein content, and Omega-3 Polyunsaturated fatty acids, all of which
are known to support good health (Burger and Gochfeld, 2004). Fish is highly recommended
by the American Heart Association to be included in the human diet at least twice a week
because it helps to lower the risk of cardiovascular diseases (AHA, 2013).
Therefore, they are consumed on the basis that they promote good health. Nevertheless, in
addition to the nutrients they provide, they contain other substances that are injurious to
health. These are called contaminants. Notable among such contaminants are heavy metals
(Costenla, 2014). Heavy metals are stable metals with density greater than 5 to 6 g/cm3 which
can have hazardous effects when present in higher concentrations (Keepax, Moyes and
Livens, 2011). Arsenic, cadmium, chromium, copper, nickel, lead and mercury are common
heavy metals among others which pollute the environment.
Natural sources such as geologic weathering of the earth crust, volcanic eruptions, soil
erosions as well as anthropogenic sources such as industrial and municipal wastes, as well as
leakages from boats and also emissions via shipping traffic, all cause heavy metals to enter
aquatic environments through the agents of wind and rain where they are ingested by aquatic
Fish accumulates substantial amounts of heavy metals in their tissues including the muscles
and thus represent a major dietary source of these metals for humans. When ingested in
excess amounts, heavy metals combine with the body’s biomolecules, like proteins and
enzymes to form stable biotoxic compounds. These compounds mutilate their structures and
hinder them from carrying out bioreaction functions. As a result, they have been considered
the most dangerous category of pollutants in the aquatic environment (Kalay, Ay and Canli,
1999; Hassaan, Al-Kahali and Al-Edres, 2007).
This present a significant amount of danger due to their ability to bioaccumulate.
Bioaccumulation occurs when there is an increase in the concentration of a chemical in a
biological organism over time, compared to the chemical’s concentration in the environment.
Heavy metals are easily stored in their fatty tissues and will bioaccumulate if fish is exposed
to further contamination. This means an increase in the concentration of heavy metals in fish
over time. (Duruibe, Ogwuegbu and Egwurugwu, 2007). While they are not very visible in
the aquatic environment, their impacts on delicate aquatic ecosystems can be large (Yilmaz,
2003), affecting both fish and human population.
Metals such as copper and zinc can leach into river water from mining industries, and has
been found to affect fish population when present in water even at low doses (Saei-Dehkordi
and Fallah, 2011). Higher level of copper in fish can cause diarr
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