Assessment of environmental and public health hazards in wastewater used for urban agriculture in Nairobi, Kenya
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Thirty percent of residents in Nairobi practise urban agriculture (UA) with a majority of the farmers using untreated sewage to irrigate crop and fodder. Due to the environmental and health risks associated with wastewater irrigation, a study was carried out in partnership with farmers in Kibera and Maili Saba which are informal settlements along the Ngong River, a tributary of the Nairobi River Basin. Soil, water, crops and human faecal samples from the farming and non-farming households were analysed to elucidate sources, types and level of heavy metal pollutants in the wastewater and the pathogen loads in humans and vegetable crops. Heavy metal accumulation in soils collected from Kibera and Maili Saba were Cd (14.3 mg kg-1), Cr (9.7 mg kg-1) and Pb (1.7 mg kg-1) and Cd (98.7 mg kg-1), Cr (4.0 mg kg-1) and Pb (74.3 mg kg-1), respectively. This led to high phytoaccumulation of Cd, Cr and Pb in the crops that exceeded the maximum permissible limits. No parasitic eggs were detected in the vegetables but coliform count in the wastewater was 4.8 x108±2.2 x1011/100ml. Soils irrigated with this water had parasitic eggs and non-parasitic larvae counts of 54.62 and 27.5/kg respectively. Faecal coliform and parasitic eggs of common intestinal parasites increased in leafy vegetable sampled from the informal markets along the value chain.