Uptake of Organic Contaminants from Soil into Vegetables and Fruits

  • Stefan Trapp
  • Charlotte N. Legind


Contaminants may enter vegetables and fruits by several pathways: by uptake with soil pore water, by diffusion from soil or air, by deposition of soil or airborne particles, or by direct application. The contaminant-specific and plant-specific properties that determine the importance of these pathways are described in this chapter. A variety of models have been developed, specific for crop types and with steady-state or dynamic solutions. Model simulations can identify sensitive properties and relevant processes. Persistent, polar (log K OW < 3) and non-volatile (K AW < 10–6) contaminants have the highest potential for accumulation from soil, and concentrations in leaves may be several hundred times higher than in soil. However, for most contaminants the accumulation in vegetables or fruits is much lower. Lipophilic (log K OW > 3) contaminants are mainly transported to leaves by attached soil particles, or from air. Volatile contaminants have a low potential for accumulation because they quickly escape to air. Experimental data are listed that support these model predictions, but underline also the high variability of accumulation under field conditions. Plant uptake predictions are uncertain, due to the immense variation in environmental and plant physiological conditions. Uptake of organic contaminants into vegetables and fruits may lead to human health risks, but it may also be used to delineate subsurface plumes and monitor Natural Attenuation. Most models mentioned in this chapter are freely available from the authors.


Organic Contaminant Pulse Input Bioconcentration Factor Soil Pore Water Transpiration Stream 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We thank our editor, Frank Swartjes, for his initiative, patience and help. Our work is supported by the European Union 6th Framework Program of Research, Thematic Priority 6 (Global change and ecosystems), contract number GOCE-CT-2007–036976, project 2-FUN, and contract number GOCE 037017, project OSIRIS. This work received also financial support from the Danish Council for Strategic Research, project REMTEC, contract 2104-07-0009. Support for this work was furthermore provided through a PhD grant of the University of Copenhagen for Charlotte N. Legind.

Model Availability Most models mentioned in this chapter are freely available via the authors. Please send an email if you are interested.


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Environmental EngineeringTechnical University of DenmarkLyngbyDenmark

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