Trace metal contamination in urban soils of China

Xiao San Luo, Shen Yu, Yong Guan Zhu, Xiangdong Li

Research output: Journal article publicationReview articleAcademic researchpeer-review

491 Citations (Scopus)


The contamination of urban soils can affect the health of people living in urban areas, and the surrounding ecosystems. Urbanization in China has taken place at an unprecedented pace in the last three decades. This paper provides an overview of studies on the quality of urban soils in China with special reference to trace metal contamination. It summarizes the characteristics of accumulation, spatial and temporal distribution, and major sources of various toxic or potentially toxic trace metals in urban soils as reported in recent literature. Levels of pollution in urban soil and road dust were discussed using the concentrations, enrichment factors, pollution indexes, and chemical fractionation of trace metals in major cities of China, and compared with other countries. In future studies, more pollutants in urban environments need to be included in multi-compartmental environmental surveillance for potential risk assessments. In addition to routine urban soil surveys by a harmonized methodology, a comprehensive assessment of soil quality is needed for the control and management of many urban brownfield sites. Taking into consideration pathways of exposure and site characteristics, risk assessment frameworks for major pollutants in urban soils, which integrate land use type and environmental availability, may be developed in the future.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17-30
Number of pages14
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2012


  • Bioaccessibility
  • Bioavailability
  • Ecological and human health risk assessments
  • Environment quality
  • Soil pollution
  • Urban geochemistry

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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