Cadmium and lead are important environmental pollutants with high toxicity to animals and human. Soils, though have considerable metal immobilizing capability, can contaminate food chain via plants grown upon them when their built-up occurs to a large extent. Present experiment was carried out with the objective of quantifying the limits of Pb and Cd loading in soil for the purpose of preventing food chain contamination beyond background concentration levels. Two separate sets of pot experiment were carried out for these two heavy metals with graded levels of application doses of Pb at 0.4-150 mg/kg and Cd at 0.02-20 mg/kg to an acidic light textured alluvial soil. Spinach crop was grown for 50 days on these treated soils after a stabilization period of 2 months. Upper limit of background concentration levels (C(ul)) of these metals were calculated through statistical approach from the heavy metals concentration values in leaves of spinach crop grown in farmers' fields. Lead and Cd concentration limits in soil were calculated by dividing C(ul) with uptake response slope obtained from the pot experiment. Cumulative loading limits (concentration limits in soil minus contents in uncontaminated soil) for the experimental soil were estimated to be 170 kg Pb/ha and 0.8 kg Cd/ha. Based on certain assumptions on application rate and computed cumulative loading limit values, maximum permissible Pb and Cd concentration values in municipal solid waste (MSW) compost were proposed as 170 mg Pb/kg and 0.8 mg Cd/kg, respectively. In view of these limiting values, about 56% and 47% of the MSW compost samples from different cities are found to contain Pb and Cd in the safe range.
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