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A bibliometric analysis and assessment of priorities for heavy metal bioavailability research and risk management in contaminated land

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

<mark>Journal publication date</mark>30/06/2023
<mark>Journal</mark>Environmental Geochemistry and Health
Issue number6
Number of pages14
Pages (from-to)2691-2704
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date21/09/22
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Risk assessment has been recognized as an important tool for evaluating heavy metal pollution and providing risk-based information for decision makers. In order to accurately assess the risk of heavy metals in contaminated soil to human health, it is necessary to conduct bioavailability studies on heavy metals in soil. Bioavailability of heavy metals in soils and the implications for risk assessment and land management/remediation has evolved over the decades and now has considerable practical and economic implications internationally. This article aims to explore its evolution by undertaking a bibliometric analysis of the research fields which have addressed heavy metal bioavailability in soils, with a focus on the risk assessment of contaminated land and human exposure to soil-borne metals. Bibliometric analysis techniques are applied to monitor and assess the changing research literature on the bioavailability of heavy metals in contaminated soils. Over 5000 articles were found for the period 1979-2020. The purpose was not to perform an exhaustive literature review, but to draw out trends and patterns in the literature, and to make observations on past and current priorities. Key words were extracted from the analysis and the roles of different countries in driving the research literature identified. Three phases in literature/subject development were identified. Between 1979 and 2000 (initial phase, 213 articles), studies used extraction procedures and solubility studies to investigate the roles of soil properties on metal form/speciation and focused on bioavailability to (crop) plants in agricultural soils. Between 2001 and 2010 (slow development phase, 1105 articles), attention switched to metals introduced in soil amendments and wastes, metal impacts on soil microbial processes, and incorporating bioavailability in risk assessment. More rigorous techniques were being used, such as the diffusive gradients in thin films technique, to better understand kinetic and metal speciation in soils and the quantitative relationship to bioavailability. By 2011-2020 (rapid development phase, 3137 articles), research was being conducted in many countries (site specific, often industrially contaminated and urban sites), with a focus shift to health risk assessment, remediation, and bioavailability to various ecological receptors (e.g., humans and animals), with the development of many methods of bioavailability (e.g., simulated gastrointestinal tract enzymolysis methods). Some priorities for research on soil heavy metal bioavailability are identified.