Organic contamination and remediation in the agricultural soils of China: A critical review

Jianteng Sun, Lili Pan, Daniel C.W. Tsang, Yu Zhan, Lizhong Zhu, Xiangdong Li

Research output: Journal article publicationReview articleAcademic researchpeer-review

240 Citations (Scopus)


Soil pollution is a global problem in both developed and developing countries. Countries with rapidly developing economies such as China are faced with significant soil pollution problems due to accelerated industrialization and urbanization over the last decades. This paper provides an overview of published scientific data on soil pollution across China with particular focus on organic contamination in agricultural soils. Based on the related peer-reviewed papers published since 2000 (n = 203), we evaluated the priority organic contaminants across China, revealed their spatial and temporal distributions at the national scale, identified their possible sources and fates in soil, assessed their potential environmental risks, and presented the challenges in current remediation technologies regarding the combined organic pollution of agricultural soils. The primary pollutants in Northeast China were polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) due to intensive fossil fuel combustion. The concentrations of organochlorine pesticides (OCPs) and phthalic acid esters (PAEs) were higher in North and Central China owing to concentrated agricultural activities. The levels of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) were higher in East and South China primarily because of past industrial operations and improper electronic waste processing. The co-existence of organic contaminants was severe in the Yangtze River Delta, Pearl River Delta, and Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei Region, which are the most populated and industrialized regions in China. Integrated biological-chemical remediation technologies, such as surfactant-enhanced bioremediation, have potential uses in the remediation of soil contaminated by multiple contaminants. This critical review highlighted several future research directions including combined pollution, interfacial interactions, food safety, bioavailability, ecological effects, and integrated remediation methods for combined organic pollution in soil.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)724-740
Number of pages17
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - 15 Feb 2018


  • Agricultural soil
  • Combined organic contamination
  • Organochlorine pesticides
  • Phthalate esters
  • Polychlorinated biphenyls
  • Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


Dive into the research topics of 'Organic contamination and remediation in the agricultural soils of China: A critical review'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this