Environmental, health and equity impacts of remediation and redevelopment of contaminated sites

Project details

Full project title:  Evidence review of the environmental, health and equity impacts of remediation and redevelopment of contaminated sites

Duration: 2020-2021

Funder: World Health Organization (WHO)

Project Leader for SPE: Dr Danielle Sinnett

Other UWE Bristol researcher: Dr Issy Bray

Project summary

Across Europe, there is a vast legacy of contaminated sites from past industrial, commercial and military activity, waste disposal, mineral extraction and others. This review examined the extent to which the remediation of contaminated sites reduces environmental and health risks to new and existing populations and ecological systems. Following full-text screening, sixteen papers were included in the evidence synthesis of outcomes related to health, with a further 31 studies reporting on environmental outcomes.


Key findings

  • The majority of papers reporting health outcomes were set in the US and were focused on reductions in blood lead concentrations in children, following a combination of soil remediation and/or public health campaigns to reduce exposure.
  • Two further studies examined the impacts of remediation on soil contaminated with chromium and sediments contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).
  • Overall, the evidence suggests that remediation via removal, capping, and replacing soil, with planting vegetation on bare soils is effective at reducing concentrations of lead and chromium in blood and urine in children, although this approach to remediation is not considered to be sustainable.
  • There is also evidence that sediment dredging can reduce PCB concentrations in umbilical cords in infants.
  • Study designs are relatively weak and some recommendations are provided for those wishing to examine the health impacts of remediation projects.
  • There is a paucity of evidence related to full-scale remediation and the environmental outcomes, but the studies that were reviewed tend to report that remediation has been successful, particularly where techniques such as stabilisations/solidification or those that degrade organic contaminants have been employed.

Project contact

For further information on the project, please contact Dr Danielle Sinnett.

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