SEGH Articles

Assessment of the environmental conditions of the Calore river basin (south Italy): a stream sediment approach

23 October 2015
Daniela Zuzolo from the University of Sannio won the Hemphill prize for best student presentation at SEGH 2015 in Bratislava. She provides a follow-up on her presentation.



In 2014 we carried out a study on the stream sediments of the Calore river (a tributary of the Volturno, the biggest south-Italian river) to assess the environmental conditions of a basin that covers 3058 Km2 (Fig.1) of the Campania region and that, until now, has been only marginally studied from this point of view.


Our study showed that, despite evidence from concentrations of many elements for enrichment over natural background values, the spatial distribution of major and trace elements in Calore river basin is determined mostly by geogenic factors. Figure 2 shows the main lithological features of the study area, while Figure 3 shows the spatial distribution of elemental association factor scores.





The south-western area of the basin highlighted an enrichment of many elements potentially harmful for human health and other living organisms (Al, Fe, K, Na, As, Cd, La, Pb, Th, Tl, U); but these anomalies are due to the presence of pyroclastics and alkaline volcanic lithologies.

Even where sedimentary lithologies occur (in northern area), many harmful elements (Co, Cr, Mn, Ni) have shown high concentration levels due to a natural origin.





On the other hand, a strong heavy metal contamination (Pb, Zn, Cu, Sb, Ag, Au, Hg), due to an anthropic contribution, is highlighted in many areas characterised by the presence of road junctions, urban settlements and industrial areas. Figure 4 highlights the enrichment factors of these elements: 3 - 4 time higher than the background values. The south-western area of the basin is characterised by a moderate/high degree of contamination (Fig.5), just where the two busiest roads of the area run and the highest concentration of industries occurs.


We assessed the distribution of the potentially harmful elements (PHE) and the related interpretations using geochemical indexes, chemometric approach and mapping of the other relevant information, all linked to PHE distribution.

First of all, 562 stream sediment samples were collected, air-dried, sieved to < 100 mesh fraction and analyzed for 37 elements after an aqua regia extraction by a combination of ICP-AES and ICP-MS.

Univariate and multivariate statistical analyses of data were performed to show the single element distribution and the distribution of elemental association factor scores resulting from R-mode factor analyses, in order to interpret the hypothetical origin of elements’ distribution (natural, anthropogenic or mixed).

The degree of contamination of the area was evaluated through analysing the Contamination Factor index and the production of a Contamination Degree map.

This approach proved successful as it achieved meaningful results and interpretations of complex datasets. It represents a useful tool to evaluate the hypothetical origin of geochemical anomalies of stream sediments; it also allows a quantitative assessment of the metal pollution threat to ecosystem and human health.

by Daniela Zuzoloa*, Domenico Cicchellaa, Lucia Giaccioa, Ilaria Guagliardib, Libera Espositoa

a - Department of Science and Technology, University of Sannio, via dei Mulini 59/A, 82100 - Benevento, Italy

b - Department of Biology, Ecology and Earth Sciences, University of Calabria, Via Ponte Bucci 4, cubo 15B, I-87036 Arcavacata di Rende (CS), Italy

Keep up to date

SEGH Events

Submit Content

Members can keep in touch with their colleagues through short news and events articles of interest to the SEGH community.

Science in the News

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

  • Assessment of the toxicity of silicon nanooxide in relation to various components of the agroecosystem under the conditions of the model experiment 2018-08-18


    Investigation of SiO2 nanoparticles (NPs) effect on Eisenia fetida showed no toxic effect of the metal at a concentration of 250, 500 and 1000 mg per kg of soil, but conversely, a biomass increase from 23.5 to 29.5% (at the protein level decrease from 60 to 80%). The reaction of the earthworm organism fermentative system was expressed in the decrease in the level of superoxide dismutase (SOD) on the 14th day and in the increase in its activity to 27% on the 28th day. The catalase level (CAT) showed low activity at average element concentrations and increase by 39.4% at a dose of 1000 mg/kg. Depression of malonic dialdehyde (MDA) was established at average concentrations of 11.2% and level increase up to 9.1% at a dose of 1000 mg/kg with the prolongation of the effect up to 87.5% after 28-day exposure. The change in the microbiocenosis of the earthworm intestine was manifested by a decrease in the number of ammonifiers (by 42.01–78.9%), as well as in the number of amylolytic microorganisms (by 31.7–65.8%). When the dose of SiO2 NPs increased from 100 to 1000 mg/kg, the number of Azotobacter increased (by 8.2–22.2%), while the number of cellulose-destroying microorganisms decreased to 71.4% at a maximum dose of 1000 mg/kg. The effect of SiO2 NPs on Triticum aestivum L. was noted in the form of a slight suppression of seed germination (no more than 25%), an increase in the length of roots and aerial organs which generally resulted in an increase in plant biomass. Assessing the soil microorganisms’ complex during introduction of metal into the germination medium of Triticum aestivum L., there was noted a decrease in the ammonifiers number (by 4.7–67.6%) with a maximum value at a dose of 1000 mg/kg. The number of microorganisms using mineral nitrogen decreased by 29.5–69.5% with a simultaneous increase in the number at a dose of 50 mg/kg (+ 20%). Depending on NP dose, there was an inhibition of the microscopic fungi development by 18.1–72.7% and an increase in the number of cellulose-destroying microorganisms. For all variants of the experiment, the activity of soil enzymes of the hydrolase and oxidoreductase classes was decreased.

  • Seasonal characteristics of chemical compositions and sources identification of PM 2.5 in Zhuhai, China 2018-08-16


    Fine particulate matter is associated with adverse health effects, but exactly which characteristics of PM2.5 are responsible for this is still widely debated. We evaluated seasonal dynamics of the composition and chemical characteristics of PM2.5 in Zhuhai, China. PM2.5 characteristics at five selected sites within Zhuhai city were analyzed. Sampling began on January 10, 2015, and was conducted for 1 year. The ambient mass concentration, carbon content (organic and elemental carbon, OC and EC), level of inorganic ions, and major chemical composition of PM2.5 were also determined. Average concentrations of PM2.5 were lower than the National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) 24-h average of 65 μg/m3. The daily PM2.5 concentration in Zhuhai city exhibited clear seasonal dynamics, with higher daily PM2.5 concentrations in autumn and winter than in spring and summer. Carbon species (OC and EC) and water-soluble ions were the primary components of the PM2.5 fraction of particles. Apart from OC and EC, chemical species in PM2.5 were mainly composed of NH4+ and SO42−. There was a marked difference between the summer and winter periods: the concentrations of OC and EC in winter were roughly 3.4 and 4.0 times than those in summer, while NH4+, SO42−, NO3, and Na+ were 3.2, 4.5, 28.0, and 5.7 times higher in winter than those in summer, respectively. The results of chemical analysis were consistent with three sources dominating PM2.5: coal combustion, biomass burning, and vehicle exhaust; road dust and construction; and from reaction of HCl and HNO3 with NH3 to form NH4Cl and NH4NO3. However, additional work is needed to improve the mass balance and to obtain the source profiles necessary to use these data for source apportionment.

  • Estimates of potential childhood lead exposure from contaminated soil using the USEPA IEUBK model in Melbourne, Australia 2018-08-14


    Soils in inner city areas internationally and in Australia have been contaminated with lead (Pb) primarily from past emissions of Pb in petrol, deteriorating exterior Pb-based paints and from industry. Children can be exposed to Pb in soil dust through ingestion and inhalation leading to elevated blood lead levels (BLLs). Currently, the contribution of soil Pb to the spatial distribution of children’s BLLs is unknown in the Melbourne metropolitan area. In this study, children’s potential BLLs were estimated from surface soil (0–2 cm) samples collected at 250 locations across the Melbourne metropolitan area using the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) Integrated Exposure Uptake Biokinetic (IEUBK) model. A dataset of 250 surface soil Pb concentrations indicate that soil Pb concentrations are highly variable but are generally elevated in the central and western portions of the Melbourne metropolitan area. The mean, median and geometric soil Pb concentrations were 193, 110 and 108 mg/kg, respectively. Approximately 20 and 4% of the soil samples exceeded the Australian HIL-A residential and HIL-C recreational soil Pb guidelines of 300 and 600 mg/kg, respectively. The IEUBK model predicted a geometric mean BLL of 2.5 ± 2.1 µg/dL (range: 1.3–22.5 µg/dL) in a hypothetical 24-month-old child with BLLs exceeding 5 and 10 µg/dL at 11.6 and 0.8% of the sampling locations, respectively. This study suggests children’s exposure to Pb contaminated surface soil could potentially be associated with low-level BLLs in some locations in the Melbourne metropolitan area.