High geochemical background of potentially harmful elements in soils and sediments: Implications for the remediation of contaminated sites

Giovanna Armiento, Carlo Cremisini, Elisa Nardi, Renata Pacifico

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

10 Citations (Scopus)


Geochemical background concentrations of potentially harmful elements and species (PHES) may have a high spatial variability and their natural levels can be higher than those caused by anthropogenic sources of pollution. Therefore, the use of a threshold value for assessing contamination can be inadequate and local variability should be considered. In Europe, soil quality standards are widely variable. In Italy concentration levels exceeding threshold values (TVs) are allowed only if the natural concentrations for a given area are higher than those specified by law. For sediments, in Italian law TVs have not been yet established but TVs with local validity are used for contamination assessment in areas with different geochemistry. A short outline of the worldwide regulatory frameworks is presented with the intent of singling out suitable approaches and priority actions needed to tackle the weak points in law, following the indications of the scientific community and stressing the importance of assessing the real hazard using tools for the evaluation of site-specific mobility and toxicity of PHES. Cases of areas with high PHES background concentration are presented as evidence of this widespread phenomenon and of the need to find effective approaches and solutions. © 2011 Taylor & Francis.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)131 - 141
Number of pages11
JournalChemistry and Ecology
Issue numberSUPPL. 1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2011
Externally publishedYes


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)

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