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Applied and Environmental Soil Science
Volume 2009 (2009), Article ID 237038, 7 pages
Review Article

Are Soil Pollution Risks Established by Governments the Same as Actual Risks?

IBED, University of Amsterdam, Nieuwe Achtergracht 166, 1018 WV Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Received 26 February 2009; Accepted 20 July 2009

Academic Editor: Amarilis de Varennes

Copyright © 2009 L. Reijnders. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Though soil pollution policies in North America and the European Union increasingly use risk-based standards, the construction and application of such standards are often deficient in taking account of actual risks. Standards refer to total concentrations of substances and not to the biologically available amount. A number of countries neglect “background” exposure, and assumptions regarding routes of exposure to soil pollution can be very different and at variance with empirical data. Recent dose-effect studies are neglected in a number of cases. The application of standards does not take account of the overall risk of soil pollution but rather leads to the decision whether or not there is violation of at least one standard for a specified (group of) substance(s). Standards for soil pollutants are often based on the assumption that only effect addition can occur, whereas dose addition, antagonism and synergism, and indirect effects may in fact apply. Several remedies for current shortcomings are proposed.