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Normal background concentrations (NBCs) of contaminants in English soils : final project report

By C.C. Johnson, E.L. Ander, M.R. Cave and B. Palumbo-Roe


The British Geological Survey (BGS) has been commissioned by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) to give guidance on what are normal levels of contaminants in English soils in support of the Part 2A Contaminated Land Statutory Guidance. This has initially been done by studying the distribution of four contaminants – arsenic, lead, benzo[a]pyrene (BaP) and asbestos – in topsoils from England. This work was extended to a further four contaminants (cadmium, copper, nickel and mercury) which enabled methodologies developed to be tested on a larger range of contaminants. The first phase of the Project gathered data sets that were: nationally extensive; systematically collected so a broad range of land uses were represented; and collected and analysed to demonstrably and acceptable levels of quality. Information on the soil contaminant concentrations in urban areas was of particular importance as the normal background is considered to be a combination of both natural and diffuse anthropogenic contributions to the soil. Issues of soil quality are most important in areas where these affect most people, namely, the urban environment. The two principal data sets used in this work are the BGS Geochemical Baseline Survey of the Environment (G-BASE) rural and urban topsoils (37,269 samples) and the English NSI (National Soil Inventory) topsoils (4,864 samples) reanalysed at the BGS laboratories by X-ray fluorescence spectrometry (XRFS) so both data sets were highly compatible. These two data sets provide results for most inorganic element contaminants, though results explored for mercury and BaP are drawn from a variety of different and much less extensive data sets

Publisher: British Geological Survey
Year: 2012
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