Soil Themes > Soil Contamination
Soil contamination is the occurrence of pollutants in soil above a certain level causing a deterioration or loss of one or more soil functions. Also, Soil Contamination can be considered as the presence of man-made chemicals or other alteration in the natural soil environment. This type of contamination typically arises from the rupture of underground storage tanks, application of pesticides, percolation of contaminated surface water to subsurface strata, leaching of wastes from landfills or direct discharge of industrial wastes to the soil. The most common chemicals involved are petroleum hydrocarbons, solvents, pesticides, lead and other heavy metals. The occurrence of this phenomenon is correlated with the degree of industrialization and intensity of chemical usage.
At EU-level, the issue of contaminated sites (local contamination) and contaminated land (diffuse contamination) has been considered by:
- Joint Research Centre (JRC) with a number of actions:
- work on the IRENA indicators for Soil: pesticide soil contamination (indicator 20), soil erosion (indicator 23) and soil quality (indicator 29).
- work on a common risk assessment references for contaminated sites in Europe through organization of an expert meeting "Towards an European Common Framework for Risk Assessment of Contaminated Sites in Europe" (February 2005, Ispra, Italy)
- a workshop on "Contaminated Lands in Accession Countries: Benchmarking Historical Heritage and National Actions", jointly organized by the JRC and EC DG Environment (November 2003, Budapest, Hungary)
- a study on the ranking of contaminated sites (see the report "Derivation methods of soil screening values in Europe. A review and evaluation of national procedures towards harmonization")
- PECOMINES, a JRC Project in association with Central and Eastern European Pre-Accession Countries on "Inventory, Regulations and Environmental Impact of Toxic Mining Wastes in Pre-Accession Countries"
- European Environment Agency (EEA) through work around the core set indicator "Progress in management of contaminated sites (CSI 015)"
- Additional information on National/European approaches can be found in the sites below
- Access to results of international projects on contaminated sites (information on national approaches): http://www.umweltbundesamt.at/en/umweltschutz/altlasten/projekte1/international1/
- Information resources on contaminated sites: http://www.eugris.info
- Nicole website: http://www.nicole.org
- DG ENV publication on soil contamination and land management (2004): http://ec.europa.eu/environment/soil/pdf/vol4.pdf
- EEA publication on national approaches (1999): http://www.eea.europa.eu/publications/Topic_report_No_131999
- EEA indicator on progress in management of contaminated sites in Europe (2007): http://themes.eea.europa.eu/IMS/ISpecs/ISpecification20041007131746/IAssessment1152619898983/view_content
Data: Heavy Metals in topsoils
For the purpose of research only, the data "Heavy Metals in topsoils" are made available to the public. Download the data for mapping concentrations of eight critical heavy metals (arsenic, cadmium, chromium, copper, mercury, nickel, lead and zinc) using the 1588 georeferenced topsoil samples from the FOREGS Geochemical database.
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