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This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 23 No. 3, p. 604-613
    Received: June 1, 1993

    * Corresponding author(s): sheppards@wl.aecl.ca
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Contaminant Enrichment and Properties of Soil Adhering to Skin

  1. S. C. Sheppard * and
  2. W. G. Evenden
  1. Environ. Science Branch, AECL Research, Whiteshell Laboratories, Pinawa, MB, Canada R0E 1L0.



The adhesion of contaminated soil to skin has potentially important health implications, because the contaminants may ultimately be ingested or absorbed through the skin. Previous studies indicated that the adhering soil is enriched in contaminant concentration relative to the original soil because of the selective adhesion of finer particles. This study investigated this enrichment using 11 markedly different soils. Two sandy soils consistently gave very high contaminant enrichment ratios, with a mean enrichment of 10-fold. The other soils all had enrichment ratios above unity. Scanning electron microscopy illustrated the potential for strong adhesion of very fine clay particles. The contaminant enrichment ratios were positively correlated to enrichments in specific surface area, organic matter content, and extractable Fe content. Correlations to soil textural properties and detailed particle-size analysis of the adhering soil indicated that 50 to 100 µm may be a critical particle size: larger grains and aggregates do not adhere readily to skin. Because of this, enrichment ratios will vary positively with the proportion of particles in the whole soil that are greater than 50 µm. A simple model is provided to predict enrichments using information from routine soil particle-size analysis.

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