, Volume 213, Issue 1-4, pp 121-143
Date: 17 Mar 2010

Trace Elements in Soils of Urban Areas

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Abstract

Urban soils are an essential element of the city environment. However, studies on urban soils are scattered in terms of geographical distribution, sampling pattern, analytical dataset, etc. One of the major issues arising from the studies on this ecosystem is the diffusion of its contamination. In cities, in fact, the proximity to humans may cause a serious danger for citizens. In the present study, results from the literature about trace elements in urban soils are presented to compare methodologies and results and to offer a basis for the harmonization of investigation approaches and establishment of remediation thresholds. A total of 153 studies on the urban ecosystem published in the last 10 years were collected and data on trace elements in soils of 94 world cities were compared and discussed. Data highlights the discrepancies among different studies (sampling strategies, analytical procedures) and the extreme variability of urban soils. Most cities are contaminated by one or more trace elements, revealing the environmental relevance of the urban soil system. While Pb is still one of the major concerns in many locations, new contaminants are on the rise and would deserve more attention from the researchers. While in fact some contaminants are almost ubiquitous in world cities and could be used as tracers for urban contamination, some traffic-related elements such as platinum, rhodium, and palladium, whose reactivity and toxicity is still unknown, are becoming of concern. Collation of literature data highlights the need for the harmonization of sampling, analytical, and rendering procedures for regulatory purposes and provides a useful dataset for environmental scientists dealing with the urban ecosystem and for city planners. A sampling design adapted to local urban patterns, a prescribed sampling depth, and a minimum set of elements that deserve to be measured could be the core of a common methodology.