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Health Risk Assessment of Post-mining Hg-As-Contaminated Soil: Implications for Land Remediation


Due to high mercury and arsenic toxicity, post-mining Hg-As-contaminated sites can cause varied and complex environmental and health problems. The aim of the study was to demonstrate the significance of the health risk assessment tool for remediation of post-mining soil contaminated with Hg and As. The aim was achieved via (1) assessing health risk under future land use patterns, (2) determining the extent and level of site remediation, (3) determining the effect of land use change on health risk and (4) suggesting appropriate remediation actions. To exemplify this issue a site of El Terronal in Asturias, Spain, was used. The health risk assessment was conducted under two potential land use scenarios (industrial and recreational). The results showed significant health risks in most of the studied area under both land use scenarios, although they were much higher under the recreational one. The health risk resulted mainly from the exposure to arsenic and mercury, with arsenic being the predominant element. Both the arsenic and mercury site-specific remedial levels differed significantly between the industrial and recreational exposure scenarios. This indicates that the land use pattern will have a significant impact on the choice of the effective remedial approach. The industrial scenario can be regarded as the more favourable. The health risk-based approach implemented in the studied area can be applied to other abandoned mining sites worldwide for conducting remediation actions.

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Data Availability

The research data obtained during the study are included in the published article and its supplementary information file.

Code Availability

Not applicable.


  1. The USEPA HRA method is not applicable to lead (see Section 3.3).

  2. The aggregate user is defined as an individual exposed for 30 years i.e. for 6 years in the childhood and for 24 years in the adult life (USEPA, 1996; PEA, 2015).


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The authors are particularly grateful to the Waste Department of the Government of the Principality of Asturias for their help with the historical study and the information provided. The authors also thank SOGENER SDS S.L. and the Environmental Assay Unit of the Scientific and Technical Services of the University of Oviedo for their technical support as well as Mirosława Cyrana-Szram from the Institute for Ecology of Industrial Areas, Katowice, Poland for checking the English version of this article.


This research was co-funded by the European Commission (project LIFE + I + DARTS, LIFE11 ENV/ES/000547).

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Eleonora Wcisło: conceptualisation, writing-original draft preparation, formal analysis, writing-reviewing, editing; Joachim Bronder: formal analysis, visualisation; Eduardo Rodríguez-Valdés: investigation, writing-reviewing; José Luis R. Gallego: conceptualisation, writing-reviewing.

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Correspondence to Eleonora Wcisło or Joachim Bronder.

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Wcisło, E., Bronder, J., Rodríguez-Valdés, E. et al. Health Risk Assessment of Post-mining Hg-As-Contaminated Soil: Implications for Land Remediation. Water Air Soil Pollut 233, 306 (2022).

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