EGU General Assembly 2020
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Urban soils and human health

Claudio Bini1 and Mohammad Wahsha2
Claudio Bini and Mohammad Wahsha
  • 1University of Venice, Environmental Sciences, Venice, Italy (
  • 2(2) The University of Jordan, Marine Science Station, Aqaba, Jordan

Since the dawn of civilization, the anthropic activity has lead to a legacy of increased land degradation/contamination. Potentially harmful elements (PHEs) are among the most effective environmental contaminants, and their release into the environment is rising since the last decades. Interest in trace elements has been increased as a major scientific topic over the last 50 years when it was realized that some elements were essential to human health (e.g., Fe, Cu, Zn). In contrast, some others were toxic (e.g., As, Hg, Pb), and likely responsible for serious human diseases and lethal consequences. Since that time, great progress in knowledge of links between environmental geochemistry and human health has been achieved. The urban environment (nowadays the main habitat for the human population) is a potential PHEs source, with high risk for residents’ health. Indeed, PHEs concentration and distribution are related to traffic intensity, distance from roads, local topography, and heating. Industrial emissions also contribute to the release of toxic elements. Understanding the extent, distribution and fate of PHEs in the urban environment is therefore imperative to address the sustainable management of urban soils and gardens in relation to human health.

Despite the extensive researches addressed to this topic, the effects of most trace metals on human health are not yet fully understood. Uncertainty is still prevailing, particularly with non-essential elements that are “suspected” to be harmful to humans, causing severe health problems as intoxication, neurological disturbances and also cancer. Some of them (e.g., As, Cd, Hg, Pb) have attracted most attention worldwide due to their toxicity towards living organisms. Other elements (Al, B, Be, Bi, Co, Cr, Mn, Mo, Ni, Sb, Sn, Tl, V, W) are likely harmful, but may play some beneficial functions not yet well known, and should be more investigated.

Keywords: Urban soils; PHEs; Human health

How to cite: Bini, C. and Wahsha, M.: Urban soils and human health, EGU General Assembly 2020, Online, 4–8 May 2020, EGU2020-11255,, 2020


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