Soil Contamination and Human Exposure: A Comprehensive Assessment Framework
Soil is the thin outer zone of the earth's crust that supports rooted plants and is the product of climate and living organisms acting on rock. Throughout the world, soils are contaminated to some extent by local, regional, and global pollution sources of both natural and human origin. Sources of soil contamination are identified and discussed. With the possible exception of agricultural applications of pesticides and fertilizers, most contaminant releases to soil are not easily quantified and, as a result, remain highly uncertain. In establishing a comprehensive framework for human exposure to soil contaminants, it is revealed that such exposure occurs through multiple transfer processes. The process for linking human exposure to soil contact is considered and it is found that the magnitude and persistence of exposure depend not only on the level of soil contamination but also on physical and chemical properties of soil, chemical properties of the contaminant, and the frequency and duration of human factors such as occupational and recreational activities or the consumption of home-grown food, which result in direct and indirect soil contact. All of these factors possess some degree of variance that leads to probability distributions for representing total exposure and risk.