School of Geography

Measuring the human dermal bioavailability of potentially harmful organic soil contaminants

Wednesday 12th May 2021 (13:00-14:00)
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With Jack Lort, University of Nottingham.

The UK government are prioritising the redevelopment of brownfield sites for housing to regenerate urban centres and reduce the development of Greenfield land. There are around 21,000 brownfield sites recorded on Brownfield Registers in England, covering almost 25,000 hectares with the potential of providing over 1 million new homes (CPRE, 2020). Brownfield land can have real or perceived contamination problems as a result of previous land use. For example at former gas work sites, the focus of this research, where persistent pollutants such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) may be produced through the incomplete combustion of organic rich materials. PAH can cause a range of adverse effects to human health, with some being classified as mutagens and/or carcinogens. 

Prior to the redevelopment of brownfield sites, the possible interactions of any contaminants with humans need to be assessed for the potential risk of harm to human health. One of the pathways by which PAH can enter the human body, is by dermal absorption. Dermal bioavailability is the proportion the total concentration of a substance that can pass the skins outermost barrier and enter the skin, and is either accumulated in the skin, or enters systemic circulation over time.

At present, the PAH dermal bioavailability values used for human health risk assessment may not be representative of the range of soil and other environmental conditions encountered at brownfield sites. This project has therefore developed an in vitro based method by which the dermal absorption of PAH from contaminated soil can be quantified, allowing for site/soil specific PAH dermal absorption data to be obtained. This was achieved using diffusion cells. Diffusion cells are experimental glassware that houses a membrane which is contact with a receptor solution, which represents systemic circulation. Methods were developed to quantify PAH in each medium. Soil can then be applied to the membrane, and PAH concentrations are then quantified in the soil, membrane and receptor solution at different time points to allow for the calculation of dermal absorption. This data can then be used to better assess the potential human health risk, reducing uncertainties in land management decisions. 

All seminars online. Please contact for the link. Subject to change.

Part of the Environment and Society Seminar Series.

School of Geography

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University of Nottingham
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