Soil pollution

Soil contamination in Europe can be divided into different topics according to the source of pollution (point or diffuse, from industry, urban or agriculture) and the types of the (emerging) pollutant (organics, inorganics, particulate pollutants).

In 2011-12, the European Soil Data Centre of the European Commission conducted a project to collect data on contaminated sites from national institutions in Europe using the European Environment Information and Observation Network for Soil (EIONET-SOIL). According to the received data, the total number of identified contaminated sites caused by point pollution is 2.5 million, the estimated number of potentially contaminated sites is 11.7 million (Panagos et al., 2013). Municipal and industrial wastes contribute most to soil contamination (37%), followed by the industrial/commercial sector (33%). Mineral oil and heavy metals are the main contaminants contributing around 60% to soil contamination. In terms of budget, the management of contaminated sites is estimated to cost around 6 billion Euros (€) annually (Panagos et al., 2013).

28: Soil pollution in Europe (https://www.slideshare.net/KakaliRoy2/soil-pollution-64065819)

Lado et al. (2008) present the results of modelling the distribution of eight critical heavy metals (arsenic, cadmium, chromium, copper, mercury, nickel, lead and zinc) in topsoils using 1588 georeferenced samples from the Forum of European Geological Surveys Geochemical database (26 European countries). High values of Cr and/or Ni are mainly found in central Greece, northern Italy, the central Pyrenees, northern Scandinavia, Slovakia and Croatia and show a strong correlation between the contents of Ni and Cr and the magnitude of earthquakes. The seismic activity is indirectly correlated with heavy metal concentrations – such materials provide high quantities of Ni and Cr to the soils by weathering processes. Cadmium, Cu, Hg, Pb, Zn present a high concentration in Central Europe and are mainly related with agriculture and with quaternary limestone. The use of fertilizers, manure and agrochemicals are important sources of these elements. They are also inversely correlated with distance to roads (Lado et al., 2008).

Although there are 700 emerging pollutants described in the European environment (NORMAN, 2014), until now, they are only taken under consideration in the aquatic environment. Their presence and concentration in the terrestrial ecosystem is unknown as is the potential risk for the environment. Aerial transport of pollutants from industrial and urban sources is even more difficult to monitor because their distribution and the fall out is not easily known.

More than 3000 different types of pesticides have been used in the European agricultural environment in the past 50 years. It has been estimated that less than 0.1% of the pesticide applied to crops actually reaches the target pest; the rest enters the environment, contaminating soil, water and air, where it can poison. Heavy metal content in European soils (Lado et al. 2008). 95 otherwise adversely affect non-target organisms (Pimentel and Levitan, 1986). Furthermore, many pesticides can persist for long periods in an ecosystem – organochlorine insecticides, paraquat, deiquat for instance, were still detectable in surface waters 20 years after their use had been banned (Larson et al., 1997). Few studies have been carried out monitoring the mixtures of pesticides present in our soils. Oldal et al. (2006) and Ferencz and Balog (2010) found high concentrations of mixtures of organochlorines and lindane even 20 years after they were forbidden in Hungarian and Romanian soils. Whilst the EC has data available on the herbicide applications per country, no data exist on the actual pesticide concentration in European soils.