Soil contamination and human health risk assessment at a former industrial site in a densely populated urban area

Maria da Graça Azevedo de Brito, Carlos Nunes osta, D. F. Vendas, Florentino Serranheira

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


Land previously used for industrial purposes may have been contaminated with hazardous substances. Metal industries, for instance, are reported to be a major contributor to local soil contamination. The main contaminant categories are mineral oils and heavy metals such as lead. Contaminated sites commonly exist in certain town's industrial areas, on locations with abandoned factories and are often found in residential neighbourhoods. Many contaminated sites stand abandoned for decades because the clean-up costs are higher than the value of the land after redevelopment. However, as there is less and less land available for urban purposes; the need for rehabilitation of contaminated land is increasingly urgent. While legal requirements for the general protection of soil have not been established at the European Union level (only exist in some Member States), the EU primary policy objective is to achieve a level of quality of the environment where man-made contaminants present on derelict sites should not give rise to significant impacts or risks to human health and ecosystems. Moreover, legislation not aimed directly at soil protection (e.g. the Water Framework Directive, the Waste Framework Directive and Landfill Directive) provides indirect control on soil contamination and requirements for its management where applicable. Cancer incidence and mortality, neurological disorders and other diseases from industrial pollution, namely heavy metals, are also health problems that should be assessed in populations leaving near these places. This paper reports a case study in which the conducted site investigation, sampling and interpretation of analytical results at a preliminary level confirmed the existence of soil contamination at a former industrial site (a metal industry) in a densely populated urban area (Odivelas, Portugal). Preliminary human health risk assessment also indicates potential hazard for child receptor through soil ingestion pathway exposure in a residential occupation scenario. Recommendations for integrating the municipal urban planning and management aiming sustainability are made in order to promote the rehabilitation of derelict industrial areas and prevent the risk of population exposure to industrial waste contaminants that remain on the soil and goes in the waterlines, increasing the probability of human diseases incidence and mortality from industrial pollution.

Soil contamination and human health risk assessment at a former industrial site in a densely populated urban area (PDF Download Available). Available from: [accessed Mar 28, 2017].
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMIST 2015 (Modelling Innovation, Sustainabilityand Technology)
Place of PublicationCarcavelos
PublisherModelling Innovation, Sustainability and Technology
Publication statusPublished - 22 Oct 2015


  • contaminated sites
  • human health
  • risk assessment
  • sustainability

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