Long-term exposure to polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) has been connected to chronic human health disorders. It is also well-known that i) PAH contamination alters soil bacterial communities, ii) human microbiome is associated with environmental microbiome, and iii) alteration in the abundance of members in several bacterial phyla is associated with adverse or beneficial human health effects. We hypothesized that soil pollution by PAHs altered soil bacterial communities that had known associations with human health. The rationale behind our study was to increase understanding and potentially facilitate reconsidering factors that lead to health disorders in areas characterized by PAH contamination. Large containers filled with either spruce forest soil, pine forest soil, peat, or glacial sand were left to incubate or contaminated with creosote. Biological degradation of PAHs was monitored using GC-MS, and the bacterial community composition was analyzed using 454 pyrosequencing. Proteobacteria had higher and Actinobacteria and Bacteroidetes had lower relative abundance in creosote contaminated soils than in non-contaminated soils. Earlier studies have demonstrated that an increase in the abundance of Proteobacteria and decreased abundance of the phyla Actinobacteria and Bacteroidetes are particularly associated with adverse health outcomes and immunological disorders. Therefore, we propose that pollution-induced shifts in natural soil bacterial community, like in PAH-polluted areas, can contribute to the prevalence of chronic diseases. We encourage studies that simultaneously address the classic "adverse toxin effect" paradigm and our novel "altered environmental microbiome" hypothesis.
Human exposure to contaminated soils drives clean up criteria at many urban brownfields. Current risk assessment guidelines assume that humans ingest some fraction of soil smaller than 4 mm but have no estimates of what fraction of soil is ingested by humans. Here, we evaluated soil adherence to human hands for 13 agricultural soils from Saskatchewan, Canada and 17 different soils from a brownfield located in Iqaluit, Nunavut, Canada. In addition, we estimated average particle size adhering to human hands for residents of a northern urban setting. Further, we estimated how metal concentrations differed between the adhered and bulk (
Novel solutions for sulfide-mine tailings remediation were evaluated in field-scale experiments on a former tailings repository in northern Sweden. Uncovered sulfide-tailings were compared to sewage-sludge biosolid amended tailings over 2 years. An application of a 0.2m single-layer sewage-sludge amendment was unsuccessful at preventing oxygen ingress to underlying tailings. It merely slowed the sulfide-oxidation rate by 20%. In addition, sludge-derived metals (Cu, Ni, Fe, and Zn) migrated and precipitated at the tailings-to-sludge interface. By using an additional 0.6m thick fly-ash sealing layer underlying the sewage sludge layer, a solution to mitigate oxygen transport to the underlying tailings and minimize sulfide-oxidation was found. The fly-ash acted as a hardened physical barrier that prevented oxygen diffusion and provided a trap for sludge-borne metals. Nevertheless, the biosolid application hampered the application, despite the advances in the effectiveness of the fly-ash layer, as sludge-borne nitrate leached through the cover system into the underlying tailings, oxidizing pyrite. This created a 0.3m deep oxidized zone in 6-years. This study highlights that using sewage sludge in unconventional cover systems is not always a practical solution for the remediation of sulfide-bearing mine tailings to mitigate against sulfide weathering and acid rock drainage formation.
Seven electrodialytic experiments were conducted using ammonium citrate as enhancing agent to remediate copper and chromium-contaminated soil from a wood-preservation site. The purpose was to investigate the effect of current density (0.2, 1.0 and 1.5 mA cm(-2)), concentration of enhancing agent (0.25, 0.5 and 1.0 M) and remediation times (21, 42 and 117 d) for the removal of Cu and Cr from a calcareous soil. To gain insight on metal behavior, soil solution was periodically collected using suction cups. It was seen that current densities higher than 1.0 mA cm(-2) did not increase removal and thus using too high current densities can be a waste of energy. Desorption rate is important and both remediation time and ammonium citrate concentration are relevant parameters. It was possible to collect soil solution samples following an adaptation of the experimental set-up to ensure continuous supply of ammonium citrate to the soil in order to keep it saturated during the remediation. Monitoring soil solution gives valuable information on the evolution of remediation and helps deciding when the soil is remediated. Final concentrations in the soil ranged from 220 to 360 mg Cu kg(-1) (removals: 78-86%) and 440-590 mg Cr kg(-1) (removals: 35-51%), being within the 500 mg kg(-1) limit for a clean soil only for Cu. While further optimization is still required for Cr, the removal percentages are the highest achieved so far, for a real Cu and Cr-contaminated, calcareous soil. The results highlight EDR potential to remediate metal polluted soils at neutral to alkaline pH by choosing a good enhancement solution.
One of the serious environmental problems that society is facing today is mine tailings. These byproducts of the process of extraction of valuable elements from ores are a source of pollution and a threat to the environment. For example, mine tailings from past mining activities at Giant Mines, Yellowknife, are deposited in chambers, stopes, and tailing ponds close to the shores of The Great Slave Lake. One of the environmentally friendly approaches for removing heavy metals from these contaminated tailing is by using biosurfactants during the process of soil washing. The objective of this present study is to investigate the effect of sophorolipid (SL) concentration, the volume of washing solution per gram of medium, pH, and temperature on the efficiency of sophorolipids in removing heavy metals from mine tailings. It was found that the efficiency of the sophorolipids depends on its concentration, and is greatly affected by changes in pH, and temperature. The results of this experiment show that increasing the temperature from 15 to 23 °C, while using sophorolipids, resulted in an increase in the removal of iron, copper, and arsenic from the mine tailing specimen, from 0.25, 2.1, and 8.6 to 0.4, 3.3, and 11.7%. At the same time, increasing the temperature of deionized water (DIW) from 15 to 23 °C led to an increase in the removal of iron, copper, and arsenic from 0.03, 0.9, and 1.8 to 0.04, 1.1, and 2.1%, respectively. By increasing temperature from 23 to 35 °C, when using sophorolipids, 22% reduction in the removal of arsenic was observed. At the same time while using DI water as the washing solution, increasing temperature from 23 to 35 °C resulted in 6.2% increase in arsenic removal. The results from this present study indicate that sophorolipids are promising agents for replacing synthetic surfactants in the removal of arsenic and other heavy metals from soil and mine tailings.
The Aamjiwnaang First Nations community is located in Canada's 'Chemical Valley' situated in southwest Ontario near Sarnia. Mercury pollution in the region has been known since the 1940s but little is known about levels in the environment and area residents. The current study, using ecological and human exposure assessment methods, was conducted at the community's request to help fill these gaps. First, Canada's National Pollutant Release Inventory and the U.S. Toxics Release Inventory were queried to investigate mercury releases from area facilities. In 2010, 700 pounds of mercury were emitted into the air, 25 pounds were released into water bodies, and 93 thousand pounds were disposed of on-site via underground injections or into landfills, and together these show continued releases into the region. Second, mercury levels were measured in stream sediment and nearby soil from sites at Aamjiwnaang (n = 4) and off Reserve (n = 19) in Canada and the U.S. during three seasons that spanned 2010-2011. Total mercury in sediment across all sites and sampling seasons ranged from 5.0 to 398.7 µg/kg, and in soils ranged from 1.2 to 696.2 µg/kg. Sediment and soil mercury levels at Aamjiwnaang were higher than the reference community, and Aamjiwnaang's Talfourd Creek site had the highest mercury levels. Third, a biomonitoring study was performed with 43 mother-child pairs. Hair (mean ± SD of all participants: 0.18 ± 0.16 µg/g) and blood (1.6 ± 2.0 µg/L) mercury levels did not differ between participants studied on- and off-Reserve, likely because of limited seafood intake (
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In 1985, the human exposure from a site of PCB (Aroclor 1260) contamination in a Toronto community was assessed. The primary source of potential exposure was soil. Extensive surface soil sampling revealed levels greater than expected (geometric mean level = 0.19 ppm). Children under age 6 were considered to be at greatest risk of exposure as they may absorb PCBs from ingested soil or skin contact. A sample of children aged 1-5 was recruited from the community (n = 30) and from a socio-demographically similar control area (n = 23) that had significantly lower but detectable soil PCB levels (geometric mean level = 0.12 ppm). Exposure to PCBs from breastfeeding, food consumption, contact with soil, and parental occupation was comparable in the two groups. Geometric mean blood PCB levels did not differ significantly between the study (1.5 ppb) and control (1.9 ppb) group. Levels ranged up to 5 ppb in both groups and are comparable to those described in children elsewhere in North America.
Trace metal composition of winter snowpack, snow-melt filter residues and top-soil samples were determined along three transects through industrial towns in the Usa basin, North-East Russia: Inta, Usinsk and Vorkuta. Snow was analysed for Ag, Al, As, Ba, Cd, Co, Cr, Cu, Mn, Ni, Pb, Sr and Zn using ICP-MS (Ca and K by F-AAS for Vorkuta only), pH and acidity/alkalinity. Filter residues were analysed for: Al, Ba, Ca, Cd, Cu, K, Mg, Mn, Ni, Pb, Sr and Zn using F-AAS and GF-AAS; top-soil samples were analysed for Ba, Cu, Mg, Mn, Na, Ni, Pb, Sr, Zn using F-AAS. Results indicate elevated concentrations of elements associated with alkaline combustion ash around the coal mining towns of Vorkuta and Inta. There is little evidence of deposition around the gas and oil town of Usinsk. Atmospheric deposition in the vicinity of Vorkuta, and to a lesser extent Inta, added significantly to the soil contaminant loading as a result of ash fallout. Acid deposition was associated with pristine areas whereas alkaline combustion ash near to emission sources more than compensated for the acidity caused by SO2.
Antibiotic-resistant organisms enter into water environments from human and animal sources. These bacteria are able to spread their genes into water-indigenous microbes, which also contain resistance genes. On the contrary, many antibiotics from industrial origin circulate in water environments, potentially altering microbial ecosystems. Risk assessment protocols for antibiotics and resistant bacteria in water, based on better systems for antibiotics detection and antibiotic-resistance microbial source tracking, are starting to be discussed. Methods to reduce resistant bacterial load in wastewaters, and the amount of antimicrobial agents, in most cases originated in hospitals and farms, include optimization of disinfection procedures and management of wastewater and manure. A policy for preventing mixing human-originated and animal-originated bacteria with environmental organisms seems advisable.
Ants accumulate heavy metals and respond to pollution with modification in species composition, community structure, altered behaviour and immunity. However, the levels of heavy metals in ants' nests and explicit individual-level responses towards heavy metals have not been revealed. We found that red wood ants Formica lugubris accumulate high and correlated values of such heavy metals as Al, Cd, Co, Cu, Fe, Ni, Pb and Zn both in ants and nest material near cobalt smelter in Finland. Relative differences in metal concentrations were higher in nests than in ants. The highest values were obtained for elements such as Co (36.6), Zn (14.9), Cd (9.7), Pb (8.5), Cu (7.4), Ni (6.4), As (4.7), Cr (2.9) and Fe (2.4) in nest material, and Co (32.7), Cd (6.3), Pb (6), Fe (2.8), Ni (2.9) and Zn (2.1) in ants. In industrial and reference areas, ants have no differences in size, but differed in dry and residual body mass. In polluted areas, F. lugubris had less melanised heads, but not thoraxes. The sensitivity of cuticular colouration in red wood ants subjected to heavy metal pollution might be related to metal-binding properties of melanins. The overall results are useful for the improvement of biomonitoring techniques using ants as indicators of industrial contamination and for further discovery of novel ecotoxicological biomarkers.