The relationship between soil geochemistry and the bioaccessibility of trace elements in playground soil

Abstract

A total of 32 samples of surficial soil were collected from 16 playground areas in Madrid (Spain), in order to investigate the importance of the geochemistry of the soil on subsequent bioaccessibility of trace elements. The in vitro bioaccessibility of As, Co, Cr, Cu, Ni, Pb and Zn was evaluated by means of two extraction processes that simulate the gastric environment and one that reproduces a gastric + intestinal digestion sequence. The results of the in vitro bioaccessibility were compared against aqua regia extractions (“total” concentration), and it was found that total concentrations of As, Cu, Pb and Zn were double those of bioaccessible values, whilst that of Cr was ten times higher. Whereas the results of the gastric + intestinal extraction were affected by a high uncertainty, both gastric methods offered very similar and consistent results, with bioaccessibilities following the order: As = Cu = Pb = Zn > Co > Ni > Cr, and ranging from 63 to 7 %. Selected soil properties including pH, organic matter, Fe and CaCO3 content were determined to assess their influence on trace element bioaccessibility, and it was found that Cu, Pb and Zn were predominantly bound to organic matter and, to a lesser extent, Fe oxides. The former fraction was readily accessible in the gastric solution, whereas Fe oxides seemed to recapture negatively charged chloride complexes of these elements in the gastric solution, lowering their bioaccessibility. The homogeneous pH of the playground soils included in the study does not influence trace element bioaccessibility to any significant extent except for Cr, where the very low gastric accessibility seems to be related to the strongly pH-dependent formation of complexes with organic matter. The results for As, which have been previously described and discussed in detail in Mingot et al. (Chemosphere 84: 1386–1391, 2011), indicate a high gastric bioaccessibility for this element as a consequence of its strong association with calcium carbonate and the ease with which these bonds are broken in the gastric solution. The calculation of risk assessments are therefore dependant on the methodology used and the specific environment they address. This has impacts on management strategies formulated to ensure that the most vulnerable of society, children, can live and play without adverse consequences to their health.

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Acknowledgments

The authors are deeply indebted to the Laboratorio Arbitral Agroalimentario de Madrid (Spanish Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Environment) for the ICP-MS analyses of the RIVM, SBET and HCl extracts. The authors would also like to express their gratitude to Dr. Alex G. Stewart (Cheshire & Merseyside Health Protection Unit) and two anonymous reviewers for their comments and suggestions which have helped to improve this manuscript significantly.

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Correspondence to Eduardo De Miguel.

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De Miguel, E., Mingot, J., Chacón, E. et al. The relationship between soil geochemistry and the bioaccessibility of trace elements in playground soil. Environ Geochem Health 34, 677–687 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10653-012-9486-7

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Keywords

  • Bioaccessibility
  • Trace elements
  • Playground
  • Risk
  • Children
  • Urban