Heavy metals and metalloids accumulation in common beans (Phaseolus vulgaris L.): A review (2023)


The presence of heavy metals (HMs) and metalloids (Ms) is one of the major environmental and food safety concerns due to potential hazards to human health. Arsenic (As), cadmium (Cd), mercury (Hg), and lead (Pb) pose major public health concerns due to their elevated levels of toxicity. For example, organic species of As are considered to be less toxic than inorganic arsenic compounds (Rosas-Castor et al., 2014). The most toxic form of Cd is the divalent cadmium ion (Cd2+) (Loredana Ungureanu and Mustatea, 2022). For Hg, the organic species methylmercury, CH3Hg+, is the most toxic and bioavailable Hg species to humans (Ullrich et al., 2001). Organic forms of lead have been reported to be more harmful than inorganic forms (Rahman and Singh, 2019). Table 1 shows the lethal doses (LD50) for some inorganic and organic species of HMs and Ms. The literature reports the effects of heavy metals and metalloids, and their species on human health, such as skin lesions, tremors, mood changes, cancers, as well as respiratory, gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, neurological, reproductive, renal, and hepatic effects (ATSDR, 1992; ATSDR, 1989; WHO, 2018; WHO, 2021; WHO, 2021; Beckers and Rinklebe, 2017; Flora, 2015; Teixeira et al., 2018).

As, Cd, Hg, and Pb naturally occur in the environment at low concentrations, mg kg−1, and μg L−1 in soil and water, respectively (ATSDR, 2007; ATSDR, 2012; ATSDR, 2020; ATSDR, 2022). Table 2 shows USEPA (United States Environmental Protection Agency) and WHO (World Health Organization) approved limits for these elements in water and soil. The sources of metal and metalloid contaminants are natural, such as volcanic eruptions, wildfires, and erosion processes, or anthropogenic sources, such as coal burning, mining and smelting operations, waste incineration, oil burning combustion, pesticide application, and phosphate fertilizers (He et al., 2019; ATSDR, 2007; ATSDR, 2012; ATSDR, 2020; ATSDR, 2022; Thompson and Bannigan, 2008). Table 3 shows the global heavy metal and metalloid content. Increased concentrations of these elements (As, Cd, Hg, and Pb) in contaminated areas have been described by different pathways in water and soil worldwide and exceed established limits. In countries such as Mexico, Iran, Brazil, Turkey, India, and South Korea, the concentrations of As in groundwater and soil exceeded USEPA limits: 10 μg L−1 and 20 mg kg−1, respectively (Table 3), which Indicates a serious worldwide pollution problem, increasing the risk of humans being exposed to these elements through ingestion of water and inhalation of dust. Polluted areas in countries such as India, Iran, China, and Georgia have exceeded the Cd limits set by the USEPA, 5 μg L−1 and 3 mg kg−1 for drinking water and agricultural soil, respectively (Panwar and Ahmed, 2018; Qasemi et al., 2019; Idrees et al., 2018). Mercury levels in groundwater in India (Kumar et al., 2019), Nigeria (Chinye-Ikejiunor et al., 2021), and Mexico (Mendoza-Lagunas et al., 2019) were determined to exceed USEPA limit of 2 μg L−1 while on the soil in Mexico, Switzerland, and Spain exceeded the USEPA limit of 23 mg kg−1 for residential soils (Quintanilla-Villanueva et al., 2020; Frossard et al., 2018; Campos et al., 2018; Fernández-Martínez et al., 2019). Lead has been measured in the water and soil of contaminated areas of Mexico, Bangladesh, Iran, China, and India (Bhuyan et al., 2019; Bhuiyan et al., 2010; Gamiño-Gutiérrez et al., 2013; Martínez-Toledo et al., 2021; Duggal et al., 2017) surpassing the water and soil limits allowed by the USEPA (15 μg L−1 and 300 mg kg−1, respectively). Plant growth and quality were affected due to the contamination of irrigation water and soil by HMs and Ms (Fernández-Macías et al., 2020).

The common bean, Phaseolus vulgaris L., belongs to the Fabaceae family (Hammami et al., 2022). This legume is the staple food of many countries, especially in Latin America and South-East Africa (Castro-Guerrero et al., 2016). It is the most produced and consumed food grain legume in the world and its market value exceeds that of all other legumes (FAOSTAT, 2021). This vegetable grows in temperate and subtropical regions and is an annual plant (Nwosu et al., 2018). In 2019, the common bean was planted in the world on 33, 066 183 ha with attainable yields of 874.0 kg ha−1 (FAOSAT, 2021). This vegetable is known for its nutritional properties, including protein (22.06–32.63%), fiber (29.32–46.77%), resistant starch (9.16–18.09%), lipids (1.05–2.83%), and non-nutritional compounds such as trypsin inhibitors, lectins, saponins, phytic acid, tannins, and oligosaccharides which have chemopreventive, antiproliferative, antimutagenic, antioxidant and hypocholesterolemic properties (Corzo-Ríos et al., 2020). Some HMs are essential to plants at low concentrations, such as Zn, Mn, Fe, and Cu. However, other heavy metals such as As, Cd, Hg, and Pb are toxic to organisms. Pan et al. (2016) assessed the presence of As, Cd, Cr, Pb, Ni, and Hg in common beans in China. In countries such as Bangladesh and Brazil, Ahmed et al. (2016) and Ciminelli et al. (2017) detected arsenic in this legume with average concentrations of 0.31 ± 0.16 mg kg−1 and 0.05 ± 0.05 mg kg−1, respectively. The recommended values of As, Cd, Hg, and Pb in vegetables by the World Health Organization are 0.1, 0.02, 0.1, and 0.1–0.3 mg kg−1, respectively (Kinuthia et al., 2020; Yuan et al., 2019).

Plants grown on heavy metal-contaminated soils result in a reduction of growth due to changes in their physiological and biochemical activities, which has been widely reported in the literature (Asati et al., 2016). Sadeghipour (2018) described the growth effects of Cd stress on common bean plants (reduction in shoot length, shoot dry weight, root dry weight, total dry weight, and leaf area). Hammami et al. (2022) reported adverse effects of HMs and Ms on common bean growth characteristics, including root and shoot dry weight, shoot-to-root ratio, and pod number. Bano et al. (2019) described the effects of As5+ on the growth of common bean plants, such as shoot height, root length, and leaf surface area reduction with increasing concentrations of this As species. Plants have evolved a complex system of enzymatic defense mechanisms against heavy metal-induced stress and nitrogen fixation. Enzymatic antioxidants include superoxide dismutase (SOD), peroxidase (POX), catalase (CAT), and ascorbate peroxidase (APX) (Helal, 2019; Khalil et al., 2021).

Therefore, this review aims to summarize and understand the factors affecting the concentration of HMs and Ms on Phaseolus vulgaris L., and the effect of plants on HMs and Ms induced stress metabolism in field legume crops.

Section snippets

Sources of heavy metals and metalloids contamination

HMs and Ms are present in the environment at low concentrations. Table 4 shows the typical concentrations of heavy metals in Earth's crust, agricultural soil, drinking water, and irrigation water. The natural concentration of these elements can be affected by the presence of natural and anthropogenic sources. Inorganic As is usually found in the environment combined with other elements such as oxygen as arsenolite (As2O3), sulfur as realgar (As2S2), and orpiment (As2S3) (Liu et al., 2021; Wu et


Heavy metal contamination in water has been reported from various sources. Table 5 shows the various sources of heavy metal pollution and their concentrations in water. Reimann et al. (2003) reported the contamination of natural water sources with As, Cd, and Pb in Ethiopia, and Khattak et al., (2021) detected mercury and lead in groundwater samples of Pakistan districts associated with natural and anthropogenic pollution. Wu et al. (2015) reported high concentrations of Cd and Pb in well,

Effect of pH

The pH can affect the uptake of HMs and Ms by Phaseolus vulgaris L. plants. A study reported by Xian et al., (1989) showed that the concentration of Cd and Pb in Phaseolus vulgaris L. plants was increased when the soil pH decreased. In this study, an important phenomenon needs attention: the amount (μg plant−1) of metal uptake was Pb > Cd agreeing with their levels in the soils, but the uptake rate to the metals in soils was Cd > Pb corresponding to the degree of their solubility (Xian et al.,

Arsenic effects

Several studies on the effects of arsenic on plant growth have shown that plant species are not resistant to arsenic, with symptoms ranging from inhibition of root growth to death after exposure (Caporale et al., 2013). Arsenate and phosphate are chemically similar, and arsenate acts like phosphate in plants. Normally, As enters plants through phosphate transporters. Both inorganic forms of As are highly toxic, as As(V) interferes with phosphate metabolism (e.g., phosphorylation and ATP

Enzymatic activity

Several studies in the literature report the effects of heavy metals and metalloids on the defense mechanism of common beans. Heavy metals and metalloids can cause changes in the plant metabolic processes and induce various biochemical processes in cells (Pula et al., 2019). There are several mechanisms for avoiding the toxic effects of metals, such as 1) absorption into the root cells due to changes in transporter kinetic properties, 2) exudation of complexing agents into the rhizosphere, 3)


HMs and Ms pollution is a global concern. Over the years, literature worldwide has reported high concentrations of As, Cd, Hg, and Pb in water and soils exceeding the limits permitted by USEPA, WHO, and Mexican law. The presence of these elements in the soil affects the quality of crops such as the Phaseolus vulgaris L. crop. HMs and Ms can damage Phaseolus vulgaris L. plants and reduce plant growth. In defense, Phaseolus vulgaris L. plants use enzymes to reduce the effects of ROS (oxidative

Credit author statement

M. Silva-Gigante (MG), Formal analysis, writing – original draft, L. Hinojosa-Reyes (LH) Writing – review & editing, J.M. Rosas-Castor (JC) Data curation, Investigation, and formal analysis P·C Quero-Jiménez (PJ), formal analysis and review, D.A. Pino-Sandoval (DS), formal analysis and review, J.L. Guzmán-Mar (JM) conceptualization and writing – review & editing, supervision.

Uncited references

Giller et al., 1998, González-Mille et al., 2021, Lead, 2001, Lima de et al., 2021, Lima et al, Osuna-Martínez et al., 2021, SEMARNAT, 2007, SEMARNAT, 2021, Shrivastava and Shrivastav, 2015, SSA, 2000, Statistics Online Database, 2014, USEPA, USEPA, 1986, USEPA, 1996, Wang and Mulligan, 2006, WHO, 2021a, WHO, 2021b

Declaration of competing interest

The authors declare that they have no known competing financial interests or personal relationships that could have appeared to influence the work reported in this paper.


The authors acknowledge Facultad de Ciencias Químicas, Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo León (327-CN-2022, PAICyT program) for funding. Silva-Gigante thanks CONACyT-México for PhD degree scholarship support (808335).

© 2023 Published by Elsevier Ltd.

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