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This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 36 No. 1, p. 70-79
    Received: June 30, 2006

    * Corresponding author(s): mattia.biasioli@unito.it


Potentially Toxic Elements Contamination in Urban Soils

  1. M. Biasioli *a,
  2. H. Grčmanb,
  3. T. Kraljb,
  4. F. Madridc,
  5. E. Díaz-Barrientosc and
  6. F. Ajmone-Marsana
  1. a DI.VA.P.R.A., Chimica Agraria, Università di Torino, Via Leonardo da Vinci, 44, 10095 Grugliasco, Torino, Italy
    b Univerza v Ljubljani, Biotehniska fakulteta, 1000 Ljubljana, Slovenia
    c Instituto de Recursos Naturales y Agrobiología de Sevilla (CSIC), Apartado 1052, 41080, Sevilla, Spain


Studies on several cities around the world confirm that urban soils are subject to heavy anthropogenic disturbance. However, these surveys are difficult to compare due to a lack of common sampling and analytical protocols. In this study the soils of Ljubljana (Slovenia), Sevilla (Spain), and Torino (Italy) were extensively sampled and analyzed using common procedures. Results highlighted similarities across the cities, despite their differences in geography, size, climate, etc. Potentially toxic elements (PTE) showed a wide range in concentration reflecting a diffuse contamination. Among the “urban” elements Pb exceeded the legislation threshold in 45% of Ljubljana, 43% of Torino, and 11% of Sevilla samples while Zn was above the limits in 20, 43, and 2% of the soils of Ljubljana, Torino, and Sevilla, respectively. The distribution of PTE showed no depth-dependant changes, while general soil properties seemed more responsive to anthropogenic influences. Multivariate statistics revealed similar associations between PTE in the three cities, with Cu, Pb, and Zn in a group, and Ni and Cr in another, suggesting an anthropogenic origin for the former group and natural one for the latter. Chromium and Ni were unaffected by land use, except for roadside soils, while Cu, Pb, and Zn distribution appeared to be more dependent on the distance from emission sources. Regardless of the location, climate, and size, the “urban” factor—integrating type and intensity of contaminant emission and anthropogenic disturbance—seems to prevail in determining trends of PTE contamination.

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