Nigeria receives copious annual precipitation to nourish its forests and agriculture, it has an extensive river drainage system, and it possesses valuable mineral deposits that stimulate both commercial and artisan mining activities. The combination of these features complicates Nigeria’s efforts to produce adequate amounts of healthy foods to support its population. Toxic heavy metals like lead, cadmium, and mercury, and toxic metalloids such as arsenic, are also present in its mineral deposits and they migrate gradually into the soil and water of Nigeria by natural means.

However, mining activities can liberate higher levels of toxic metals, which adversely affect Nigerian ecosystems and its food chains. Thus, environmental pollution due to anthropogenic activities is a major public health concern in Nigeria. This review covers the importance of native Nigerian and African wild and cultivated plants along with livestock and wild animals as sentinel species to evaluate heavy metals as environmental stressors and the use of sentinel species for food safety monitoring and for predicting potential risks to human health.

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