SEGH Articles

SEGH 2014 Conference Report

08 September 2014
Northumbria University welcomed over 120 delegates from over 25 countries to SEGH 2014.


Northumbria University welcomed over 120 delegates from over 25 countries to SEGH2014. The meeting attracted delegates from across Europe, but also further afield from the USA, Mexico, Canada, Pakistan, Vietnam, Namibia and Nigeria, to hear the 51 papers and 40 posters presented. Human impacts on our atmosphere, lithosphere, biosphere and hydrosphere were discussed over the five days, with the linkages between human health and the environment a central focus.

In the opening session on ‘Air & Dust Pollution and Human Health’, Professor Frank Kelly (King’s College London), gave a timely and considered overview of the PM (particulate matter) burden to which populations are exposed and recent developments in evidence of how PM2.5 elicit health effects in humans. The subsequent session speakers considered how we detect, assess, model and practically tackle air pollution.

The session on ‘Environmental Iodine and the Deficiency Disorders’ generated a lively and stimulating set of papers and posters covering our current environmental knowledge and health perceptions, and highlighted ‘myths, misunderstandings and deficiencies’ along with further research needs.

As part of a special session on ‘Hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and health’ we heard a thought-provoking set of interlinked talks given by Professor Mike Stephenson (British Geological Survey), Professor Fred Worrall (Durham University), and Mr Robie Kamanyire (Public Health England). Current concerns raised in the media about the process of hydraulic fracturing were examined and discussed along with the potential public health impacts of exposures to chemical and radioactive pollutants as a result of shale gas extraction.

The central themes of risk, exposure assessment, bioavailability and bioaccessibility were explored over two days of sessions. Keynotes were given by Dr Frank Swartjes (National Institute of Public Health and the Environment (RIVM), Netherlands) and Professor Steven Sicilliano (University of Saskatchewan, Canada).  These talks, along with many of the session presenters, explored how the chemical and physical properties of soil influence the movement of pollutants from the environment into our bodies. Arsenic and Pb provided the main focus for a number of speakers, but Cd, Cu, Mg, Hg, V, along with Benzo[a]pyrene and a range of other PHEs, were also considered.   

The Conference Dinner, a Northumbrian-themed evening with local food and local music, took place in the Great Hall at Jesmond Dene House, and was attended by over 60 delegates. Photographs, taken by Ms Rosina Leonard, Geological Survey of Namibia, are available on line at Click here to view SEGH 2014

Thank you Rosina!

Finally, at the end of the week a few hardy (although they didn't realise this at the time!) delegates joined Mr Phil Hartley (Newcastle City Council) and Ms Lesley Dunlop (Northumbria University) to explore of the North-East’s industrial history and cultural heritage. However, after an amazing week of unusually good British ‘summer’ weather (yes sunshine and no rain on every day prior to the fieldtrip) our luck ran out.

Hadrian’s Wall at Cawfields. A stretch of Hadrian's Wall on a steep slope, with turrets and an impressive milecastle, probably built by the Second Legion.





But we donned hard hats, wellington boots and head torches to venture into Killhope lead mine. The mine owners hope everyone has now warmed up and dried out again! 

Killhope Lead Mine, Cowshill, Co. Durham

So just a final thank you to all who participated in SEGH 2014, and to the many new society members. Northumbria University looks forward to welcoming you to Newcastle again – but in the meantime we hope to see many of you in Bratislava in June 2015.  See for details.



by Jane Entwistle

(SEGH Chair 2014)

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Latest on-line papers from the SEGH journal: Environmental Geochemistry and Health

  • Fertilizer usage and cadmium in soils, crops and food 2018-06-23


    Phosphate fertilizers were first implicated by Schroeder and Balassa (Science 140(3568):819–820, 1963) for increasing the Cd concentration in cultivated soils and crops. This suggestion has become a part of the accepted paradigm on soil toxicity. Consequently, stringent fertilizer control programs to monitor Cd have been launched. Attempts to link Cd toxicity and fertilizers to chronic diseases, sometimes with good evidence, but mostly on less certain data are frequent. A re-assessment of this “accepted” paradigm is timely, given the larger body of data available today. The data show that both the input and output of Cd per hectare from fertilizers are negligibly small compared to the total amount of Cd/hectare usually present in the soil itself. Calculations based on current agricultural practices are used to show that it will take centuries to double the ambient soil Cd level, even after neglecting leaching and other removal effects. The concern of long-term agriculture should be the depletion of available phosphate fertilizers, rather than the negligible contamination of the soil by trace metals from fertilizer inputs. This conclusion is confirmed by showing that the claimed correlations between fertilizer input and Cd accumulation in crops are not robust. Alternative scenarios that explain the data are presented. Thus, soil acidulation on fertilizer loading and the effect of Mg, Zn and F ions contained in fertilizers are considered using recent \(\hbox {Cd}^{2+}\) , \(\hbox {Mg}^{2+}\) and \(\hbox {F}^-\) ion-association theories. The protective role of ions like Zn, Se, Fe is emphasized, and the question of Cd toxicity in the presence of other ions is considered. These help to clarify difficulties in the standard point of view. This analysis does not modify the accepted views on Cd contamination by airborne delivery, smoking, and industrial activity, or algal blooms caused by phosphates.

  • Effects of conversion of mangroves into gei wai ponds on accumulation, speciation and risk of heavy metals in intertidal sediments 2018-06-23


    Mangroves are often converted into gei wai ponds for aquaculture, but how such conversion affects the accumulation and behavior of heavy metals in sediments is not clear. The present study aims to quantify the concentration and speciation of heavy metals in sediments in different habitats, including gei wai pond, mangrove marsh dominated by Avicennia marina and bare mudflat, in a mangrove nature reserve in South China. The results showed that gei wai pond acidified the sediment and reduced its electronic conductivity and total organic carbon (TOC) when compared to A. marina marsh and mudflat. The concentrations of Cd, Cu, Zn and Pb at all sediment depths in gei wai pond were lower than the other habitats, indicating gei wai pond reduced the fertility and the ability to retain heavy metals in sediment. Gei wai pond sediment also had a lower heavy metal pollution problem according to multiple evaluation methods, including potential ecological risk coefficient, potential ecological risk index, geo-accumulation index, mean PEL quotients, pollution load index, mean ERM quotients and total toxic unit. Heavy metal speciation analysis showed that gei wai pond increased the transfer of the immobilized fraction of Cd and Cr to the mobilized one. According to the acid-volatile sulfide (AVS) and simultaneously extracted metals (SEM) analysis, the conversion of mangroves into gei wai pond reduced values of ([SEM] − [AVS])/f oc , and the role of TOC in alleviating heavy metal toxicity in sediment. This study demonstrated the conversion of mangrove marsh into gei wai pond not only reduced the ecological purification capacity on heavy metal contamination, but also enhanced the transfer of heavy metals from gei wai pond sediment to nearby habitats.

  • Cytotoxicity induced by the mixture components of nickel and poly aromatic hydrocarbons 2018-06-22


    Although particulate matter (PM) is composed of various chemicals, investigations regarding the toxicity that results from mixing the substances in PM are insufficient. In this study, the effects of low levels of three PAHs (benz[a]anthracene, benzo[a]pyrene, and dibenz[a,h]anthracene) on Ni toxicity were investigated to assess the combined effect of Ni–PAHs on the environment. We compared the difference in cell mortality and total glutathione (tGSH) reduction between single Ni and Ni–PAHs co-exposure using A549 (human alveolar carcinoma). In addition, we measured the change in Ni solubility in chloroform that was triggered by PAHs to confirm the existence of cation–π interactions between Ni and PAHs. In the single Ni exposure, the dose–response curve of cell mortality and tGSH reduction were very similar, indicating that cell death was mediated by the oxidative stress. However, 10 μM PAHs induced a depleted tGSH reduction compared to single Ni without a change in cell mortality. The solubility of Ni in chloroform was greatly enhanced by the addition of benz[a]anthracene, which demonstrates the cation–π interactions between Ni and PAHs. Ni–PAH complexes can change the toxicity mechanisms of Ni from oxidative stress to others due to the reduction of Ni2+ bioavailability and the accumulation of Ni–PAH complexes on cell membranes. The abundant PAHs contained in PM have strong potential to interact with metals, which can affect the toxicity of the metal. Therefore, the mixture toxicity and interactions between diverse metals and PAHs in PM should be investigated in the future.