Risk assessment of heavy metals in rooibos (Aspalathus linearis) tea consumed in South Africa

Oluwaseun Mary Areo, Patrick Berka Njobeh

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12 Citations (Scopus)


A total of 80 rooibos tea samples from a range of brands were purchased from various registered retail shops in South Africa. The samples were bought during 2019 winter (40) and summer (40) period which are classified as 6 natural rooibos, 18 herbal rooibos samples, and 16 flavor rooibos samples and subjected for heavy metal analysis such as chromium (Cr), iron (Fe), arsenic (As), cadmium (Cd), and lead (Pb) using inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometer (ICP-MS). Human health risks were determined by estimating the daily intake non-cancer hazard quotient (THQ) and hazard index (HI) via oral exposure to toxic elements based on daily tea consumption. The concentration range of the determined heavy metals in rooibos tea samples were as follows: Cr (0.17–11.98 mg/kg), Fe (31–450 mg/kg), As (ND–0.51 mg/kg), Cd (0.09–0.17 mg/kg), and Pb (0.06–2.73 mg/kg). Cr was found in higher amount when compared to the World Health Organization (WHO) permissive limit (1.3 mg/kg). The concentrations of all studied heavy metals during winter and summer period were compared using two-way Anova, and no significant differences (p = 0.832) were observed for the two seasons. Both the target risk quotient (THQ) and the hazard index (HI) levels in all analyzed tea were well below 1, implying that intake of rooibos tea with analyzed heavy metals should not cause a threat to human health. On the other hand, the continuous intake due to the high concentrations of trace metals such as Cr may pose a serious chronic health risk due to accumulation in body tissues over time. The study, therefore, suggests constant monitoring of these heavy metals in teas in order to limit the risk of exceeding the permissive limits.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)59687-59695
Number of pages9
JournalEnvironmental Science and Pollution Research
Issue number42
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2021


  • Health risk assessment
  • Heavy metals
  • ICP-MS
  • Rooibos tea
  • South Africa

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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