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

  • Date palm waste biochars alter a soil respiration, microbial biomass carbon, and heavy metal mobility in contaminated mined soil 2017-04-19


    A 30-day incubation experiment was conducted using a heavy metal-contaminated mined soil amended with date palm feedstock (FS) and its derivative biochars (BCs) at three pyrolysis temperatures of 300 (BC-300), 500 (BC-500), and 700 °C (BC-700) with different application rates (0.0, 5, 15, and 30 g kg−1) to investigate their short-term effects on soil respiration (CO2–C efflux), microbial biomass carbon (MBC), soil organic carbon (SOC), mobile fraction of heavy metals (Cd, Cu, Pb, Zn, Mn, and Fe), pH, and electrical conductivity (EC). The results showed that FS and BC-300 with increasing addition rate significantly reduced soil pH, whereas SOC, CO2–C efflux, and soil MBC were increased compared to the control. On the contrary, BC-500 and BC-700 increased soil pH at early stage of incubation and have small or no effects on SOC, CO2–C efflux, and MBC. Based on the results, the date palm biochars exhibited much lower cumulative CO2–C efflux than feedstock, even with low-temperature biochar, indicating that BCs have C sequestration potential. Applying BC-700 at 15 and 30 g kg−1 significantly reduced cumulative CO2–C efflux by 21.8 and 45.4% compared to the control, respectively. The incorporation of FS into contaminated soil significantly increased the mobile content of Cd and Mn, but decreased the mobile content of Cu. However, BC-300 significantly reduced the mobile content of Cd, Cu, Pb, and Zn. It could be concluded that low-temperature biochar could be used as a soil amendment for reducing heavy metal mobility in mining contaminated soil in addition to minimize soil CO2–C efflux.

  • Historical record of anthropogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in a lake sediment from the southern Tibetan Plateau 2017-04-17


    High-altitude lake sediments can be used as natural archives to reconstruct the history of pollutants. In this work, the temporal distribution of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) was determined in a sediment core collected from the southern Tibetan Plateau (TP), which was dated by using the 210Pb dating method and validated with the 137Cs fallout peak. The concentrations of the anthropogenic PAHs (Σ8PAH) in the sediment core ranged from 0.83 to 12 ng/g dw, and the fluxes of the Σ8PAH were in the range of 2.1–27 g/cm2/year. The temporal variations in the concentration and input flux of anthropogenic PAHs were low with little variability before the 1950s, and then gradually increased from the 1950s to the 1980s, and an accelerated increase was observed after the early 1980s. The content of total organic carbon played an insignificant role in affecting the time trends of PAHs in the sediment core. Diagnostic concentration fractions of PAH components indicate PAHs in the lake sediment of the southern TP which are mainly from biomass burning and/or from long-range atmospheric transport.

  • Determination of the potential implementation impact of 2016 ministry of environmental protection generic assessment criteria for potentially contaminated sites in China 2017-04-12


    The Ministry of Environmental Protection of China issued a 3rd draft edition of risk-based Generic Assessment Criteria (the MEP-GAC) in March 2016. Since these will be the first authoritative GAC in China, their implementation is likely to have a significant impact on China’s growing contaminated land management sector. This study aims to determine the potential implementation impact of the MEP-GAC through an in-depth analysis of the management context, land use scenarios, health criteria values adopted and exposure pathways considered. The MEP-GAC have been proposed for two broad categories of land use scenarios for contaminated land risk assessment, and these two categories of land use scenarios need to be further delved, and a MEP-GAC for Chinese cultivated land scenario ought to be developed, to ensure human health protection of Chinese farmers. The MEP-GAC have adopted 10−6 as the acceptable lifetime cancer risk, given the widespread extent and severe level of land contamination in China, consideration should be given to the decision on excess lifetime cancer risk of 10−5. During risk assessment process in practice, it is better to review the 20% TDI against local circumstances to determine their suitability before adopting it. The MEP-GAC are based on a SOM value of 1%, for regions with particularly high SOM, it might be necessary to develop regional GAC, due to SOM’s significant impact on the GAC developed. An authoritative risk assessment model developed based on HJ25.3-2014 would help facilitate the DQRA process in practice. The MEP-GAC could better reflect the likely exposures of China’s citizens due to vapour inhalation by using characteristics of Chinese exposure scenarios, including China-generic building stock, as inputs into the Johnson and Ettinger model as opposed to adoption of the US EPA parameters. The MEP-GAC once implemented will set the trajectory for the development of the investigation, assessment and remediation of land contamination for years.