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The application of sewage sludge or biosolids on soils has been widespread in agricultural areas. However, depending on their characteristics, they may cause increase in heavy metal concentration of treated soils. In general, domestic biosolids have lower heavy metal contents than industrial ones. Origin and treatment method of biosolids may markedly influence their characteristics. The legislation that controls the levels of heavy metal contents in biosolids and the maximum concentrations in soils is still controversial. In the long-term, heavy metal behavior after the and of biosolid application is still unknown. In soils, heavy metals may be adsorbed via specific or non-specific adsorption reactions. Iron oxides and organic matter are the most important soil constituents retaining heavy metals. The pH, CEC and the presence of competing ions also affect heavy metal adsorption and speciation in soils. In solution, heavy metals can be present either as free-ions or complexed with organic and inorganic ligands. Generally, free-ions are more relevant in environmental pollution studies since they are readily bioavailable. Some computer models can estimate heavy metal activity in solution and their ionic speciation. Thermodynamic data (thermodynamic stability constant), total metal and ligand concentrations are used by the GEOCHEM-PC program. This program allows studying heavy metal behavior in solution and the effect of changes in the conditions, such as pH and ionic strength and the application of organic and inorganic ligands caused by soil fertilization.
Biosolids and heavy metals in soils 793
Scientia Agricola, v.60, n.4, p.793-806, Oct./Dec. 2003
Maria Lucia Azevedo Silveira1; Luís Reynaldo Ferracciú Alleoni2*; Luiz Roberto Guimarães
1University of Florida, Dep. of Soil and Water Sciences, 32611, Gainesville, FL, USA.
2USP/ESALQ - Dep. de Solos e Nutrição de Plantas, C.P. 09 - 13418-900 - Piracicaba, SP - Brasil.
3UFLA - Dep. de Ciência do Solo, C.P. 37 - 37200-000 - Lavras, MG - Brasil.
*Corresponding author <>
ABSTRACT: The application of sewage sludge or biosolids on soils has been widespread in agricultural
areas. However, depending on their characteristics, they may cause increase in heavy metal concentration of
treated soils. In general, domestic biosolids have lower heavy metal contents than industrial ones. Origin and
treatment method of biosolids may markedly influence their characteristics. The legislation that controls the
levels of heavy metal contents in biosolids and the maximum concentrations in soils is still controversial. In
the long-term, heavy metal behavior after the and of biosolid application is still unknown. In soils, heavy
metals may be adsorbed via specific or non-specific adsorption reactions. Iron oxides and organic matter are
the most important soil constituents retaining heavy metals. The pH, CEC and the presence of competing ions
also affect heavy metal adsorption and speciation in soils. In solution, heavy metals can be present either as
free-ions or complexed with organic and inorganic ligands. Generally, free-ions are more relevant in
environmental pollution studies since they are readily bioavailable. Some computer models can estimate
heavy metal activity in solution and their ionic speciation. Thermodynamic data (thermodynamic stability
constant), total metal and ligand concentrations are used by the GEOCHEM-PC program. This program
allows studying heavy metal behavior in solution and the effect of changes in the conditions, such as pH and
ionic strength and the application of organic and inorganic ligands caused by soil fertilization.
Key words: sewage sludge, adsorption, speciation, pH, organic matter
RESUMO: A aplicação agrícola de lodos de esgoto ou biossólidos tem se tornado prática comum, mas pode
causar o acúmulo de metais pesados nos solos, dependendo das características desses resíduos. Em geral,
biossólidos de origem doméstica apresentam teores de metais inferiores aos dos oriundos de descarga industrial.
A origem e o processo de tratamento influenciam as características desses materiais. A legislação que controla
os níveis de metais pesados presentes nos biossólidos e a concentração máxima nos solos é controversa. O
comportamento dos metais pesados em longo prazo, após o término da aplicação de biossólidos, não é bem
conhecido. Nos solos, os metais pesados podem ser adsorvidos por meio de reações de adsorção específica e/
ou não específica. Dentre os componentes que retém metais pesados, destacam-se os óxidos de Fe e a matéria
orgânica. O pH, a CTC e a presença de cátions afetam a adsorção e a especiação iônica de metais pesados nos
solos. Em solução, os metais encontram-se como íons livres e/ou formam complexos com ligantes orgânicos
e inorgânicos. As espécies-livres são mais importantes em estudos de poluição ambiental, pois correspondem
às formas prontamente biodisponíveis. Alguns programas computacionais calculam a atividade dos metais
em solução e sua especiação iônica. O programa GEOCHEM-PC utiliza uma base de dados termodinâmicos
(constante de estabilidade termodinâmica), a concentração total do metal e dos ligantes em solução. Isso
permite observar o comportamento dos metais em solução e a resposta dos mesmos às mudanças nas condições
do meio, tais como a variação do pH e da força iônica e a adição de ligantes orgânicos e inorgânicos via
Palavras-chave: lodo de esgoto, adsorção, especiação, pH, matéria orgânica
Industrialized societies produce large amounts of
waste and one of the options for its disposal is through
application on agricultural land. Since 1970, the interest
in spreading sewage sludge from municipal sewage treat-
ment plants on agricultural and forested land as a nutri-
ent subsidy is steadily increasing (Tomlin et al., 1993).
Nearly half of the sludge production in the United States
is currently being applied to lands. In the European Com-
munity, over 30% of the sewage sludge is used as fertil-
izer in agriculture. Agricultural land application appears
Silveira et al.
Scientia Agricola, v.60, n.4, p.793-806, Oct./Dec. 2003
to be a logical and reasonable use, since it may improve
many soil properties, such as pH and the contents of or-
ganic matter and nutrients (Tsadilas et al., 1995; López-
Mosquera et al., 2000, Sastre et al., 2001). Sewage sludge
is effective as a fertilizer, increases dry matter yield of
many crops (Tsadilas et al., 1995), and can also improve
soil physical properties such as porosity, aggregate sta-
bility, bulk density, and water retention and movement
(Karapanagiotis et al., 1991).
In the United States, the application of sewage
sludge is controlled by the U.S. Environmental Protec-
tion Agency (USEPA Clean Water Act 503 Regulations)
(United States, 1993). The USEPA 503 rule (standards for
the use or disposal of sewage sludge) controls the appli-
cation of biosolids at agronomic rates appropriated for
crop yield. The term “sewage sludge” is used in many
references because of its wide recognition, its regulatory
definition, and its consistency with other EPA 503 guid-
ance documents. However, the term “biosolids” is becom-
ing more common as a replacement for “sewage sludge”,
because it is thought to reflect more accurately the ben-
eficial characteristics inherent to sewage sludge.
The use of biosolids in cropland and forested land
may be restricted by their heavy metal contents. Heavy
metals most commonly found in biosolids are lead (Pb),
nickel (Ni), cadmium (Cd), chromium (Cr), copper (Cu),
and zinc (Zn), and the metal concentrations are governed
by the nature and the intensity of the industrial activity,
as well as the type of process employed during the sew-
age sludge treatment (Mattigod & Page, 1983). Usually,
domestic waste has lower heavy metal contents than in-
dustrial waste. Pires & Mattiazzo (2003) demonstrated
that the bioavailability of metals could be enhanced in
biosolids treated with polymers, when compared to fer-
ric chloride and calcium oxide treatments. The
bioavailability of metals is directly related to the chemi-
cal characteristics of the biosolid and of the soil.
The long-term use of sludge can cause heavy
metal accumulation in soils (López-Mosquera et al.,
2000). Even after short-time application of biosolids, the
levels of heavy metals in soils can increase considerably.
Oliveira & Mattiazzo (2001) observed increases in Cu,
Cr, Ni e Zn concentrations in soils amended for two years
with biosolids. Heavy metals can also contaminate the
food chain and reduce crop yields (Obrador et al., 1997;
Wang et al., 2003).
The consumption of plants containing high lev-
els of heavy metals might pose a serious risk to human
health (Turkdogan et al., 2003; Wang et al., 2003). De-
pending on the environmental conditions and the rate that
heavy metals are added to the soils, these elements can
be leached through the soil profile, and consequently, con-
taminate groundwater. Antoniadis & Alloway (2003)
studied soils that received heavy loads of biosolids and
pointed out that the movement of heavy metals was sig-
nificant down to the 0.8 m soil depth, suggesting the risks
of applying this residue for a long period. Since heavy
metals do not break down, they might affect the biosphere
for a long time. Wang et al. (2003) investigated heavy
metal contamination in soils and plants at polluted sites
in China, and reported the problems associated to the con-
sumption of rice grown in paddy soils contaminated with
Cd, Cr or Zn, because 22 to 24% of the total metal con-
tent in the rice biomass was concentrated in the grain.
The sludge can introduce excessive amounts of
nutrients, mainly nitrogen and phosphorus, pesticides and
pathogenic microorganisms to soil (Barry et al., 1995).
Soil salinity can also be affect by sludge application and,
consequently, the metal availability to plants may become
higher. Therefore, the risk of soil contamination by heavy
metals must be considered when biosolid is applied, and
an understanding of the behavior of heavy metals in the
soil is essential for assessing environmental risks when
these metals are incorporated by the agroecosystem.
The plateau and time bomb theories are opposite
philosophies used to explain metal behavior in soils and
their uptake by plants in response to biosolid application
on agricultural areas. The plateau theory considers that
biosolids may prevent the excessive metal uptake by
plants. This protective effect is attributed to the presence
of organic matter in this residue. On the other hand, the
time bomb hypothesis considers that the slow mineral-
ization of the organic matter present in biosolids could
release metals in readily soluble forms, which then may
become available for plant uptake.
Plant uptake differs depending on the metal source.
When metals are added to soils as soluble salts, a linear
response is expected; in other words, as the concentration
of metal increases in the soil, there is an increase in the
metal concentration in the plants. On the other hand, when
metals are added to soils as biosolids, a “plateau response”
occurs in plant uptake. This plateau effect is related to the
presence of adsorptive materials in the biosolid, such as
organic matter and amorphous iron oxides. In general, these
compounds are very stable and exhibit high adsorbing af-
finity to metals. The fraction of organic matter present in
the biosolids, which provides protection against metal up-
take, can resist to decomposition (McBride, 1995).
Soils compete for biosolid-bound metals and plant
uptake increases when initial amounts of biosolids are
added to soils. As more biosolids are added, the strong
binding sites of the biosolid matrix become dominant over
the binding sites in the soil, resulting in a “plateau effect”
in relation to plant uptake. At that point, the metal absorp-
tion by plants does not increase in response to biosolid ap-
plication and this is known as the “plateau theory”. For the
plateau to occur during the land application of biosolids,
some conditions are necessary, such as:
Biosolids and heavy metals in soils 795
Scientia Agricola, v.60, n.4, p.793-806, Oct./Dec. 2003
1) Before the plateau is reached, continuing ap-
plication of sludge will result in increasing metal concen-
tration in plant tissue. If the application is stoped, the
metal concentration in plant tissues will be the same as
that at the termination time;
2) After the plateau is reached, continuing appli-
cation of sludge results in metal concentrations in plant
tissues equal to those found during the plateau. If appli-
cation terminates, the metal concentrations in plant tis-
sue will be the same as those of the plateau (Chang et
al., 1997). These studies on the “plateau effect” reject the
hypothesis of the “time bomb”, which states that the slow
mineralization of the organic matter of the sludge could
release the metals in more soluble forms (McBride, 1995).
The time bomb hypothesis concerns about the
consequences of the metal concentration in soil and in
plant tissue following the termination of biosolid appli-
cation. Data obtained from a 10-yr field submitted to
biosolid land application, show that Cd concentration in
soils and in plant tissue increased with increasing biosolid
application, and that no plateau was reached, even at a
loading mass reaching 1,080 t ha-1 (Chang et al., 1997).
Although there was no plateau, ten years after the termi-
nation of biosolid application, the metal concentration in
plant tissue did not rise. This fact indicates that neither
the plateau nor the time bomb hypothesis are realistic.
When compared to international standards, the
USEPA regulations are permissive for most metals, and
their premises have been extensively criticized (McBride,
1995; Schmidt, 1997). The maximum permitted accumu-
lation defined for heavy metals (Cd, Cr, Cu, Mo, Hg, Ni,
Pb and Zn) and nonmetal elements (As and Se) in soils
can be 10 to 100 times greater than the original concen-
tration present in most of soils (McBride, 1995). In the
land application risk assessment, 14 pathways were evalu-
ated by USEPA as possible pollutant transfer routes from
land-applied biosolid to plant, animals or humans, and the
land application of biosolids must meet either pollutant
loading rate limits, or annual pollutant loading rate lim-
its for the metals present in the residue (United States,
1994). To develop the USEPA 503, greenhouse studies
were carried out in which soluble metal salts and
biosolids were added to soil in pots to determine uptake
of pollutants and phytotoxicity from pollutants of the
biosolids. Metal salt and pot studies greatly overestimated
phytotoxicity and bioavailability of metals (United States,
1994). When heavy metals were applied as biosolids, cer-
tain components such as ferric hydrous oxides, organic
matter and phosphates, bind metals to the residue, mak-
ing them less available to plants, animals and humans.
Based in these results, the plateau theory was used to de-
velop USEPA 503. For biosolids containing low levels
of pollutants, additional cumulative amounts of pollutants
added to land are not required, and its use is allowed
within minimal regulatory oversight.
Although the protection of plants is an impor-
tant aspect of USEPA 503, the interspecies sensitivity, the
selection of phytotoxicity threshold, and the relationship
between trace element application rates and plant uptake
rates was not considered when this regulation was devel-
oped (Schmidt, 1997). Nevertheless, it would be impos-
sible to determine the phytotoxicity threshold for the en-
tire range of possible natural conditions, such as plant
species, soil types, and environmental conditions. The
USEPA calculated the metal uptake coefficient (UC) us-
ing tissue analyses for the edible part of crops growing
in sludge-treated fields. The UC coefficient obtained for
crops cultivated in one or more sludge treatment levels
was compared to metal concentration in control crops.
However, it was reported that, in some cases, the metal
concentrations in control crops were very high, suggest-
ing sample contamination, such as contamination by soil
particles and atmospheric deposition, or inappropriate
analytical techniques (McBride, 1998). This author sug-
gested that the UC inaccuracy might be unsuitable for use
in risk assessments.
Even though some studies have shown that phy-
totoxicity only occurs when biosolids with high metal
concentrations are applied at high rates, or when soils ex-
hibited very low pH (below 5.0) (United States, 1994),
the long term implication of metal availability to plants
cultivated in biosolid-treated soil is uncertain. The
USEPA 503 was based in short-term experiments at rela-
tively low metal loadings, and a question remains: “what
happens to toxic metals over the very long-term follow-
ing the end of sludge application?” (McBride, 1995). It
is not clear if metal availability increases or not with time
after ceasing the sludge application, and it is difficult to
discern the contribution of metal-retaining organic and
inorganic materials of sludge.
Without a conclusion whether the plateau or the
time bomb occurs, it is difficult to know the implication
of land application of biosolids (Chang et al., 1997). In
addition the USEPA 503 does not make any reference
about differences in soils and sludge chemistry, and it is
assumed that inorganic constituents will permanently re-
tain toxic metals in insoluble forms (McBride, 1995). The
soil ability to remove trace elements from the solution
determines their phytoavailability (Schmidt, 1997). Physi-
cal processes in soils, such as tillage and erosion, may
contribute to losses of metals over the long term (McBride
et al., 1997). Factors that affect organic matter solubility
can modify the solubility and leachability of metals. Many
of the sludge used in field experiments by EPA were lime-
stabilized, which means that the pH was raised. There-
fore, the metals had their availability limited by pH, but
Silveira et al.
Scientia Agricola, v.60, n.4, p.793-806, Oct./Dec. 2003
soil pH can gradually decrease after the cessation of
biosolid application (McBride, 1998). If the soil under-
goes acidification, the solubility and activity of metals
will be further enhanced (Chang et al., 1997; Bolan et al.,
2003a).In this context, conclusions about the risk and
advantages of biosolids are still controversial. Moreover,
other countries, such as Brazil, follow the USEPA 503.
In highly weathered soils, such as Brazilian Oxisols, in
which predominates oxides in the clay fraction and pH
is low, metal adsorption reactions are different from those
occurring in soils on which the regulation was based.
The dynamics of soil organic matter is also dif-
ferent, when tropical regions are compared to temperate
zones. Antoniadis & Alloway (2001) compared the avail-
ability of Cd, Ni and Zn to ryegrass (Lolium perenne L.)
at 15 and 25oC, after applying 10 and 50 t ha-1 of biosolid
on a foamy sand and a clay loam soil. Temperature had
a marked effect on metal availability. Both soil extracts
and plant samples from the 25oC treatment had greater
concentrations of Cd, Ni and Zn than those at 15oC. They
concluded that this may be attributed to the organic mat-
ter, which decomposed more rapidly at 25oC. Therefore,
predictions assumed in USEPA 503 could not be applied
in this specific condition. Regulations for biosolid appli-
cation should consider the basic physiological phenom-
ena of the biosolid-soil-plant system, and most likely, re-
quire regional approach for specific situations.
Whatmuff (2002) conducted an experiment to de-
termine whether guideline soil metal limits from other
countries are appropriate for regulating biosolid applica-
tion under acid soil conditions that occur in New South
Wales, UK. Metal uptake by field-grown silverbeet was
>10-fold higher for Cd and >20-fold higher for Zn than
predicted from the slope of the metal uptake response
curve for leafy vegetables used in the USEPA biosolids
guidelines. For some treatments, leaf tissue Cd levels ex-
ceeded the maximum permissible concentration for Cd in
foodstuffs, and Zn levels were above phytotoxicity thresh-
olds (with some yield reduction) when silverbeet was
grown on soils with Cd and Zn concentrations well be-
low soil metal limit concentrations in the United States
biosolid guidelines, and equal to levels set in the United
Metals are present in the environment and most
of them are essential for animals and plants. They are
natural constituents of rocks and sediments. In natural
conditions, the main source of trace elements in soils are
parent materials. Anthropogenic sources, including indus-
trial emissions and effluents, biosolids, fertilization, soil
ameliorants and pesticides can contribute to increasing the
amount of metals in soils. In general, it is very difficult
to distinguish between the natural metal enhancement and
that resulting from anthropogenic sources.
Metals are present in the solid phase and in so-
lution, as free ions, or adsorbed to soil colloidal particles.
The heavy metal concentration in topsoil is a result of
soil-forming processes, as well as agricultural and human
activities. Twelve metals are known to be essential for
humans: sodium (Na), magnesium (Mg), potassium (K),
calcium (Ca), chromium (Cr), manganese (Mn), iron (Fe),
cobalt (Co), copper (Cu), zinc (Zn), selenium (Se) and
molybdenum (Mo). Of the nonessential metals, mercury
(Hg), lead (Pb), cadmium (Cd), and arsenic (As) are rec-
ognized as health hazardous and all have caused major
health problems as a result of environmental pollution
(Berglund et al., 1984).
The capacity of soils to retain and release metals
can be an important factor to predict environmental im-
pact of the use of residues containing these elements.
When applied to soils as a solid phase (e.g., biosolids),
metals reach the equilibrium with the soil solution and,
consequently, with the soil solid-phase. This equilibrium
is controlled by chemical properties of soil and the sludge
(Figure 1). The kinetics of metal dissolution will deter-
mine reaction rates.
To evaluate the potential impact of biosolid ap-
plication to agricultural land, it is necessary to understand
the mobility and bioavailability of heavy metals in the
soil. Metal solubility is controlled by adsorption/desorp-
tion, precipitation/dissolution and complexation reactions.
These interactions influence the partition of metals in the
liquid and solid phases, and are responsible for their mo-
bility and bioavailability in the system.
The total heavy metal amount in soils is distrib-
uted over some fractions. The soluble and exchangeable
fractions are the most important associated to groundwa-
ter pollution and to plant nutrition; however, the move-
ment of metals in sludge-amended soils depends on the
composition of the sludge (Sastre et al., 2001). For ex-
ample, biosolid with high iron oxide content can reduce
the risk of pollution by heavy metals. Ohtani et al. (2001)
investigated the effect of artificial precipitation (solutions
of HNO3, H
2SO4, and HCl, prepared to pH 4.5) on the
uptake of heavy metals by Brassica rapa from non-con-
Figure 1 - Types of interactions within and between solid and
solution phases in soil systems (Mattigod & Page, 1983).
Acid/base reactions
Complex formation
Redox reactions
Mass transfer
Ion exchange
Formation of
functional groups
Redox reactions
Biosolids and heavy metals in soils 797
Scientia Agricola, v.60, n.4, p.793-806, Oct./Dec. 2003
taminated, Cd-contaminated, and biosolid compost (BC)-
amended sandy soil. They observed that all acid treat-
ments increased the Cd concentration in shoots grown on
Cd-contaminated soil, but only HNO3 precipitation in-
creased it in BC-amended soil. Marked changes in soil
pH were not observed, raising the possibility that Cd up-
take by B. rapa depends on the anions and the chemical
forms of Cd in the soil under conditions of heavy metal
The extractability of metals can be reduced after
many years of sludge addition, and this behavior may re-
sult from the increase in soil organic matter content
(Karapanagiotis, 1991). The mobility and bioavailability
of metals are related to their solubility of their geochemi-
cal form. Olajire et al. (2003) studied four contaminated
soils of Southern Nigeria, and found that the apparent
mobility and potential bioavailability of some metals in
the soil were: Pb > Zn > Cu > Ni > Cd.
Adsorption, defined as the accumulation of a sub-
stance or material at an interface between the solid sur-
face and the bathing solution, seems to be the most im-
portant chemical process controlling the behavior and
bioavailability of metals in soils (Alloway, 1990; Sparks,
1995). These reactions are important not only for the con-
trol of the activity of heavy metals in soil solution, but
also in natural water bodies (McBride et al., 1997; Salam
& Helmke, 1998). The metal-complexing groups exposed
on the solid surface in soils include the hydroxyl groups
that protrude from the edge surfaces of layer silicates and
from the surface of metal oxides, the ditrigonal cavities
in the basal planes of clay minerals and carboxyl, amine
and phenolic hydroxyl groups that reside on the surfaces
of the soil organic matter (Sposito, 1983).
As consequence of adsorption, metals are re-
moved from de soil solution and retained on the colloi-
dal soil surface. Many mechanisms are involved in metal
adsorption, including cation exchange or non-specific
adsorption and specific adsorption. Physical (van der
Waals and electrostatic ion exchange) and chemical (in-
ner-sphere complexation) forces are involved in the ad-
sorption of metals in soils (Sparks, 1995). The nature of
the interactions and the mechanisms of adsorption can be
different, as proposed by Filep (1999):
a) van der Waals Molecular adsorption
b) Hydrogen bonding (physical adsorption)
c) Ion-dipole interaction
d) Electrostatic forces Ion exchange
e) Coordinative and other
types of chemical bonding Chemisorption
The type of interaction which will be predomi-
nant depends on the quantity and characteristics of the
sites of the solid phase, the concentration of metals and
of all ligands capable of forming organomineral com-
plexes and on soil pH, EC and redox potential (Kiekens,
1983). The adsorption-free energy at the surface of
adsorbents Gadsorption may be described as (1) (Ji & Li,
Gadsorption = Gcoulomb + Gchem.. + Greaction (1)
where Gcoulomb is the free energy caused by electrostatic
interaction and is related to the electric charge of ions;
Gchem., is the free energy referring to the specific adsorp-
tion, the bounding forces being determined by the nature
of the adsorbent and of the ion species; and Greaction de-
pends on the size and polarizability of the adsorbed ions,
and of the structure of the solution adjacent to the adsor-
bent surface. If Gchem is high, ions with the same charge
of the surface can be adsorbed, since this free energy
component can overcome the electrostatic repulsive force
(Ji & Li, 1997). Silveira et al. (1999) and Dias et al.
(2003), studying, respectively Cu and Cd adsorptions to
positively charged samples of subsurface soil, observed
that the free energy for metal adsorption decreased with
an increase in the amount of the added metal. These au-
thors showed also that the free energy values were nega-
tive for all metal concentrations, which means that the
reactions were spontaneous. Probably, in this situation,
the Gchem for Cu and Cd were high enough to overcome
repulsive forces between the positive charges in the col-
loid surface, and that of the metal.
Non-specific adsorption
In non-specific adsorption, also known as cation
exchange, metals are bound by electrostatic forces result-
ing in the formation of outer-sphere complexes. The ions
in soil solution, such as heavy metals, are in equilibrium
with counter-ions that balance the surface charge of the
colloids. According to the principle of electroneutrality,
the non-specific adsorption of metals should be followed
by desorption of stoichiometric quantities of counter-ions
(Harmsen & Vlek, 1985; Ji & Hi, 1997). Non-specific
adsorption is a reversible, diffusion-controlled, stoichio-
metric process, and there is some selectivity or preference
of ions by the adsorbent, depending of their valence and
degree of hydration. Both organic and inorganic colloids
are involved in electrostatic adsorption.
The non-specific adsorption of cations is directly
controlled by negative charge, but not necessarily by the
net surface charge of the soil. For instance, Oxisols, which
may have positive net charge in the B horizons, can still
adsorb metals when the pH is below their isoelectric point
of charge (Silveira et al., 1999; Dias et al. 2001a). Bolan
et al. (2003b) studied the effect of increasing pH on the
Silveira et al.
Scientia Agricola, v.60, n.4, p.793-806, Oct./Dec. 2003
adsorption of Cd in two soils which varied in their vari-
able-charge components, and observed that since there
was no direct evidence for CdCO3 or Cd(OH)2 precipita-
tion in the variable charge soil used for the plant growth
experiment, alleviation of phytotoxicity could be attrib-
uted primarily to immobilization of Cd by enhanced, pH-
induced increase in negative charge.
The affinity of soil colloid surfaces for cations
increases as the valence increases. For cations of differ-
ent valences, the affinity should generally follow the or-
der M+ < M2+< M3+. For cations of the same valence, the
adsorption strength should be determined mainly by the
hydrated radius of the ions (Ji & Li, 1997). Gomes et al.
(2001) observed that in a competitive situation Cr, Pb,
and Cu were the heavy-metal cations most strongly
adsorbed by seven Brazilian soils, whereas Cd, Ni, and
Zn were the least adsorbed. For metals of the same va-
lence, the authors observed that sequences did not exactly
follow the order of electronegativity.
Surface charge, pH and the concentration of ions,
as well as of its accompanying anions, can affect elec-
trostatic adsorption of metals. Soil pH can affect metal
speciation in solution and also the surface charge in vari-
able charge soils (Ji & Li, 1997). Yoo & James (2002)
evaluated the extractability of added Zn in a laboratory
study using sequential extractions as a function of pH and
biosolid additions in A and B horizon samples of
Psammentic Hapludult, Typic Hapludult, and Typic
Endoaquult. They stated that the addition of biosolid,
compared to no biosolid addition, lowered the exchange-
ability of Zn and favored the partitioning into nonex-
changeable Zn forms at pH > 5.8 in all soils, and con-
cluded that pH was a controlling variable for the redis-
tribution of water-soluble, exchangeable and nonex-
changeable Zn, affected by biosolid addition.
The effect of accompanying anions is more
marked in variable charge soils, as they can alter the ionic
strength of the soil solution, and thus the surface charge,
and also form ion pairs with metals. Although in some
cases the contribution of electrostatic reactions for metal
retention in soils can be neglected, this mechanism is im-
portant to supply nutrients to soil solution and, conse-
quently, to plants. The presence of lactate and citrate in-
creases the solubility of Cu and Cd, and treatment with
these acids in some cases affect the distribution of their
chemical forms (Ahumada et al., 2001). Acetate incor-
poration increased the amount of Cu associated to organic
matter, and the presence of citrate affected the fractions
of exchangeable Cu, carbonate, and associated manganese
Specific adsorption
The adsorption of metals by soils - specific ad-
sorption - can involve specific forces. Specific adsorp-
tion of ions on colloid surfaces results in the formation
of stable molecules, with high bound energy, also called
inner-sphere complexes (Sparks, 1995). This mechanism
of metal binding is often not reversible, slower than outer-
sphere complexation, and is weakly affected by the ionic
strength of soil solution (Sparks, 1995). After some time,
the tendency is that metals specifically adsorbed by the
surface of colloids diffuse to the interior of particles, hin-
dering subsequent desorption (Barrow, 1985). Organic
matter amendments added to metal-contaminated soil can
have ameliorative effects resulting from increases in sur-
face area and in the number of specific adsorption sites
(Shuman et al., 2002).
In oxidic soils, metal adsorption can not be ex-
plained simply by electrostatic forces. The zero point of
charge of most metal oxides lies above pH 8, and the ad-
sorption of transition metal ions occurs frequently at pH
3-7 (Yu et al., 1997). In this case, the surface has a posi-
tive net charge, and the repulsion forces between the col-
loid surface and the metals can occur; metals combine
with the oxygen and hydroxyl groups on the oxide sur-
face, forming surface complexes.
The hydrous oxides of Al, Fe, and Mn and the
organic matter are the main soil constituents involved in
specific adsorption. Some layer silicates can have the abil-
ity of specific adsorption of heavy metals, being in this
way similar in properties to the hydroxyl groups on ox-
ide surfaces. Most of the cations that can be adsorbed spe-
cifically by soils, such as Cu, Zn, Co, and Cd, are heavy
metals. This pattern occurs because heavy metals and
metal ions of the IB group and II group have large
amounts of electric charge in the atomic nucleus, small
ionic size and great polarizability (Yu et al., 1997). There-
fore, the ability of heavy metals for deformation is greater
than that of alkaline metals and alkaline earth metals. Be-
sides, heavy metals might exist as hydrated cations such
as MOH+, which in turn contribute to the decrease in the
average amount of electric charge per ion, and to the de-
crease in the energy barrier that must be overcome when
ions approach the oxide surface, facilitating the interac-
tions between ions and the colloid surface (Yu et al.,
1997). The surface properties of oxides are modified in
response to metal adsorption. The metal adsorption does
not result in desorption of counter-ions and, thus, the net
of surface charges can be altered (2).
-Fe-OH + M(H2O)6
2+ -Fe-OM(H2O)5
+ + H3O+ (2)
M= metal.
Heavy metal adsorption in soils can be described
by many isotherms, describing the relationship between
the metal concentration in the equilibrium solution and
the amount adsorbed in the solid phase. The Langmuir
equation, developed to describe the adsorption of gas
Biosolids and heavy metals in soils 799
Scientia Agricola, v.60, n.4, p.793-806, Oct./Dec. 2003
molecules on planar surfaces, can be expressed as (3):
⋅ ⋅
= (3)
where Mads is the amount of M adsorbed per unit of ad-
sorbate; K is a constant related to the bonding energy; C
is the activity of the ion; and b is the maximum amount
of ions that will be adsorbed by a given sorbate. The
Langmuir equation best describes sorption at low sorp-
tive concentrations. Because of its original assumptions,
this model is not valid in heterogeneous surfaces, such
as soils, and it should only be used for qualitative and
descriptive purposes (Sparks, 1995).
The Freundlich equation (4) was initially devel-
oped to describe gas phase adsorption and solute adsorp-
x = k Cn or log x = log k + n log C (4)
where x is the amount of ion adsorbed per unit of adsor-
bent at concentration C of adsorbate, and k and n are re-
gression parameters. The Freundlich adsorption isotherm
is an empirical model and its major disadvantage is that
it does not include an adsorption maximum as Langmuir.
The equation is primarily applicable at low to medium
concentrations, or at higher temperatures (Filep, 1999)
Burton et al. (2003) used isotherm equations to
estimate biosolid-derived Cu and Zn loadings to soil in
order to result in an “allowable” output concentration
from the soil solution to the surrounding environment.
According to the authors, for sludge loading estimates
based on soil sorption characteristics to be relevant to en-
vironmental protection, the sorption depressing effect of
dissolved organo-metallic complexes should be quantita-
tively considered.
The Langmuir and Freundlich isotherms can be
easily determined in laboratory experiments, but neither
provides much information on the mechanism involved,
since both equations are capable of describing data, irre-
spective of the actual retention mechanism, assuming uni-
form distribution of adsorption sites and the absence of
any reactions between adsorbed ions (Alloway, 1990).
Adsorption isotherms can be considered descriptions of
macroscopic data and do not define a reaction mechanism
(Sparks, 1995). In spite of their disadvantages, those iso-
therms have been used in many adsorption studies. In
Oxisol, for instance Cu and Cd adsorption can be de-
scribed either by Langmuir or by Freundlich isotherms
(Dias et al., 2001b; Silveira et al., 2002). The same con-
clusion was found by Mesquita et al. (2002) studying Cu
and Zn adsorption in Gleyic Podzol.
The adsorption reactions for most of the heavy
metals are irreversible and the hysteresis (the different
path followed by the adsorption and the desorption iso-
therms) seems to be greater for Cu and Pb than for Zn
(Berglund et al., 1984). The following parameters are
pointed by Berglund et al. (1984) to explain the selec-
tive adsorption of trace elements and the occurrence of
a) properties of the metal ion, such as ionic radius, po
larizability, thickness of the hydration shell, equivalent
conductance, hydration enthalpy and entropy;
b) number of pH-dependent adsorption sites;
c) steric factors;
d) formation of hydroxy complexes;
e) affinity of the ions to form organomineral complexes
and their stability;
f) interaction with amorphous hydroxides.
Adsorption isotherms can be classified in four
general types: S, L, H and C (Sparks, 1995). The S-type
isotherm shows an initial increasing with adsorptive con-
centration, but eventually decreases and becomes zero as
vacant adsorbed sites are filled. The L-type or Langmuir
isotherm describes a decreasing slope as concentration
increases; this behavior is indicative that the adsorption
sites have higher affinity for the adsorptive at low con-
centrations. The H-shaped or high affinity isotherm is
characterized by the strong adsorbate-adsorptive interac-
tion, such as inner-sphere complexes. The C-type iso-
therm, which is approximately linear, follows the
Freundlich model with an exponent (n) equal to 1. This
kind of isotherm indicates that the adsorption of ions or
molecules is not dependent of any bonding between the
adsorbent and adsorbate.
The partitioning coefficient or distribution coef-
ficient (Kd) is used to compare the behavior of contami-
nants in different soils. The Kd provides a measure of the
ratio of the amount of a material that is adsorbed and the
amount that is in solution, and can be represented as (5):
----------------------------= (5)
The distribution coefficient is an useful param-
eter for comparing the sorptive capacities of different soils
or materials for any particular ion, when measured un-
der the same experimental conditions (Alloway, 1990).
The adsorption of heavy metals in soils is a competitive
process between metals in solution and those adsorbed
to soil particles.
In the solid phase, metals can be bound mainly
to organic matter and onto iron and manganese oxide sur-
faces (Impellitteri et al., 2001), but these adsorbents have
different selectivity for metals. The attributes of the sur-
face adsorbent or the soil type and the characteristics of
the metal noticeably affect the distribution coefficient. In
this case, the K
d can be used to indicate the affinity of
Silveira et al.
Scientia Agricola, v.60, n.4, p.793-806, Oct./Dec. 2003
the solid phase for specific metals. In a competitive sorp-
tion experiment, Veeresh et al. (2003) observed that the
affinity of metals, based on their Kd values, was Pb > Cu
> Zn > Ni or Cd. When metals are introduced to the sys-
tem as biosolids, only a small fraction of these elements
is released to the solution (Hyun et al., 1998; Vulkan et
al., 2002). This pattern occurs because of the high adsorp-
tive affinity of metals to the biosolid’s matrix. McBride
et al. (2000) obtained Kd values for Cu, Zn and Cd close
to 104 for sludge-treated calcareous soils with the high-
est organic matter content, indicating a strong metal re-
tention that may be attributed to binding by organic mat-
ter, but free calcium carbonate in the soil was probably
important in limiting metal lability and solubility. In 64
field-collected, contaminated soils samples, containing
between 0.1 and 38 mg Cd kg-1, Sauve et al. (2000) found
Kd values varying over from 10 to 100,000, and the frac-
tion of the dissolved Cd present in solution as the esti-
mated free Cd2+ species, varied between 0 and 60%, but
averaged about 20%.
Mineral and organic soils can bind metals to dif-
ferent extents. Organic matter, Fe and Al hydrous oxides,
and clay content are the most significant soil properties
influencing sorption reactions (Barry et al., 1995, Bolan
& Duraisamy, 2003). Even if these active components are
not present at high concentrations in the soil, they may
be dispersed on the surface of sand and clay minerals,
thus exerting considerable control upon adsorption reac-
tions. The complex formed at the surface at higher metal
loadings, can either be distribute evenly over the surface
or form clusters (Martinéz & McBride, 1998). Metals
such as Cd2+, Cu2+, Pb2+, and Zn2+ can be imprisioned
within iron oxide structures under specific conditions, ei-
ther by forming a true solid solution as clusters with the
oxides, or by segregating within the oxide or at the ox-
ide surface (Martinéz & McBride, 1998).
Additionally, soil pH, cation exchange capacity
(CEC) and redox potential can also regulate the mobility
of metals in soils (Lombi & Gerzabek, 1998). Soil pH,
for instance, is very important for most heavy metals,
since metal availability is relatively low when pH is
around 6.5 to 7. With the exception of Mo, Se, and As,
the mobility of trace elements is reduced with increasing
soil pH because of the precipitation as insoluble hydrox-
ides, carbonates, and organic complexes. At high pHs, ion
hydrolysis (MOH+) is favored, and the energy barrier that
must be overcome when these ions approach the surface
of soil particles is decreased (Yu et al., 1997). The CEC
is directly related to the soils capacity of adsorbing heavy
metals. The greater the CEC values, the more exchange
sites on soil minerals will be available for metal reten-
tion. Surface and subsurface samples of the same soil can
exhibit different capacities to adsorb heavy metals, since
the adsorption behavior depends of the combination of
the soil properties and the way they affect each specific
element (Barry et al., 1995).
The presence of competitive cations can affect
metal adsorption in soils. For instance, Ca2+ competes
effectively with cationic heavy metals for adsorption
sites, and this competition seemed to be greater for Zn
and Cd than for Cu and Pb (Kiekens, 1983; Pierangeli
et al., 2001; 2003). This occurs because Zn and Cd are
basically retained in the soil by exchange reactions,
while Cu and Pb form inner-sphere complexes with or-
ganic matter and with Fe, Al, and Mn oxides. The pres-
ence of inorganic and organic ligands in the soil solu-
tion can affect the adsorption of trace metals. These ef-
fects can be classified into three general categories
(Sposito, 1983):
(i) The ligand has high affinity for the metal and they
form a soluble complex with high affinity for the ad-
(ii) The ligand has high affinity for the adsorbent, is
adsorbed, and the adsorbed-ligand has a high affin-
ity for the metal.
(iii) The ligand has high affinity for the metal and they
form a soluble complex with low affinity for the ad-
Soil redox potential can influence the solubility
of heavy metals. In conditions where oxidation reactions
are involved, the solubility of heavy metals increases with
decreasing pH. But, in reducing conditions, the solubil-
ity of Zn, Cu, Cd, and Pb is higher in alkaline pHs, as a
result of the formation of stable soluble organomineral
complexes. On the other hand, if pH ranges between 4
and 6, the solubility of these metals will be lower because
of the formation of insoluble sulfides or insoluble
organomineral complexes (Kiekens, 1983).
Organic matter
Soil organic matter (OM) is quite effective in re-
taining metals. Metal-organic associations can occur both
in solution and in the solid surfaces of either native soil
constituents or any added material (e.g., biosolids). In a
heavy metal-polluted forest soil, Kiikkila at al. (2002)
studied the effect of biosolids as organic immobilizing
agents and observed that exchangeable Cu concentration
decreased. On the other hand, the metal could be
complexed by dissolved organic matter (DOC), which act
enhancing leaching in the field (Moolenaar & Beltrami,
1998). Schaecke et al. (2002) evaluated biosolid appli-
cation rates (equivalent 82-330 t ha-1 dry matter) incor-
porated in 0-0.25 m depth of a Chernozem (1982-1985).
The aim of the investigation was to study the fate of
heavy metals Zn, Cd, Cu, Ni, Pb, and Cr, and to deter-
mine their concentration in the soil fractions. Eleven years
Biosolids and heavy metals in soils 801
Scientia Agricola, v.60, n.4, p.793-806, Oct./Dec. 2003
after the last application, metals supplied with the sludge
had moved as far as 50 cm in depth. Concentrations of
Zn, Cd, Cu, Ni, and Cr in the saturation extract of the
sampled soil layers were closely correlated to concentra-
tions of dissolved organic carbon (DOC), that is, the
heavy metal displacement was partly linked to the DOC
movement in the soil.
Humus and other organic compounds can chelate
metals and form stable complexes. Humic fractions with
lower molecular weights are more effective for complex-
ation with metallic ions, since they contain phenolic (Ph-
OH) and carboxylic (-COOH) groups in higher concen-
trations.Humic substances may be classified according
to their solubility. Humic acids (HA) are soluble only
in alkaline media, while fulvic acids (FA) are soluble
in alkaline and acid media. Both HA and FA play dif-
ferent roles in controlling plant uptake. Generally, FA-
metal complexes are soluble, while HA-metal complexes
are insoluble (McBride, 1995). Depending on the com-
plex solubility, metal-OM complexes can be found ei-
ther in the liquid or in the solid phase. In general, FA
form soluble complexes with metals over a wide range
of pH. In soluble complexes, metals can be available to
plant uptake, while in solid complexes they are immo-
bilized. With time, the tendency is that soluble organic
compounds and organic decomposition decrease, total
dissolved metals stabilize at lower values and
bioavailability diminishes (McBride, 1995), while
soluble complexes change to insoluble ones in soil so-
lution (Schmidt, 1997).
The high degree of selectivity shown by organic
matter for certain metals suggests that they coordinate di-
rectly, forming inner-sphere complexes with the acid
functional groups (McBride, 1989). The stability of
organo-complexes is strongly influenced by the pH range.
Generally at low pH, most metals are in the cationic form,
but as pH increases, humate complexes are formed. For
FA, the complex stability increases from pH 3.5 to 5.0
(Kiekens, 1983). The stability constant of metal-FA com-
plexes may decrease with increasing ionic strength in the
solution. Even tough stability constants for metals with
either FA or HA can be difficult to be determined, many
estimates have been carried out (Table 1).
An anthropogenic fulvic acid, such as that ex-
tracted from a composted sewage, has macroscopic com-
plexation properties (magnitude of the conditional sta-
bility constant and binding sites concentration) some-
what similar to the natural FA samples, but has
some binding site structures containing nitrogen that
probably play important role in the complexation, be-
sides oxygen containing structures (Silva & Oliveira,
2002). McBride (1989) suggested the following se-
quence of affinity of divalent metal ions for organic mat-
ter: Cu> Ni> Pb> Co> Ca> Zn> Mn> Mg. In general, the
more electronegative the metal ion, the stronger the bond
formed with organic matter. Copper is commonly found
strongly complexed by organic matter. Evidences from
electron paramagnetic resonance (ESR) studies suggested
that Cu2+ is bonded rigidly as a inner-sphere complex, and
that at high metal concentrations, the complex may be
mobile (McBride, 1989). This metal may be bound by
HA, coordinating either with O atoms or with N atoms,
and the first complex would be more accessible for plant
uptake (Martin Neto et al., 1991). Most of the first-row
transition metals (Mn2+, Fe2+, Co2+) and alkaline earth
metals (Ca2+, Mg2+) form outer-sphere complexes with
organic matter. Desorption of heavy metals from organic
matter requires a large activation energy to be overcome
(McBride, 1989).
The influence of pH on humified substances oc-
curs because their functional groups, such as carboxyl,
phenolic and amino, are pH-dependent. If the pH
of the soil solution changes, the protonation or
deprotonation of the charged surface will occur. For car-
boxyl groups, the pK is about 3-5, while for the phe-
nolic, is between 9-10 (Filep, 1999). Therefore, the ion-
ization capacity is higher for carboxyl groups than for
phenolic groups at the pH values commonly found in
soils. Organic matter can form organomineral com-
plexes with 2:1 type clay minerals and with Fe and Al
oxides. These complexes have strong coordination bond-
ing and alter the colloid characteristics. The interaction
of hydrous oxide with organic matter also appears when
a clay mineral surface is covered by a Fe or Al-hydrox-
ide film (Filep, 1999).
Fraction pH Stability Sequence
Fulvic Acid 3Fe3+>Al3+>Cu2+>Ca2+>Zn2+>Mn2+>Mg2+
5Cu2+ Ca2+>Mn2+>Zn2+>Mg2+
7Cu2+>Ca2+» Zn2+>Mn2+
8Cu2+>Ca2+> Zn2+>Mn2+
Humic Acid 7Al3+>Cu2+>Ca2+>Mn2+>Zn2+
8Cu2+>Zn2+ Mn2+>Ca2+
Table 1 - Stability sequence of metals for fulvic and humic acids as a function of pH. (Adapted from Filep, 1999)
Silveira et al.
Scientia Agricola, v.60, n.4, p.793-806, Oct./Dec. 2003
Iron oxides
Iron oxides (a term thereafter used for oxides and
oxyhydroxides of Fe) play an important role in adsorp-
tion reactions, particularly when the equilibrium between
the solid-solution interface is shifted towards the solid.
Iron oxides are present in almost all soils, and even at
low concentrations, they influence soil color, soil struc-
ture and ion adsorption. Almost all rocks contain at least
some iron (Cornell & Schwertmann, 1996).
In soils, the mineral species, concentration and
crystal properties of the iron oxide vary greatly. The most
frequent and stable iron oxides in soils are goethite (a-
FeOOH) and hematite (a-Fe2O3). Goethite and hematite
are important constituents of the highly weathered soils
of tropical and subtropical regions that contain kaolinite
as the major clay mineral (Singh & Gilkes, 1992). These
minerals can play important roles in chemical and physi-
cal attributes of Oxisols, such as aggregate stability and
particle dispersion (Alleoni & Camargo, 1994a; 1994b;
1995; Pinheiro-Dick & Schwertmann, 1996).
Lepidocrocite, ferrihydrite and maghemite, al-
though less common, may also be present in soils
(Schwertmann, 1991). Ferrihydrite is a poorly ordered
oxide and may act as a very efficient sink for trace ele-
ments because of its high specific surface area.
Generally, iron oxide solubilities are very low at
the pH range of soils, and depends on the particle size,
crystallinity and the percent of Al substitution
(Schwertmann, 1991). The quantification in soils and
sediments is often complicated by a considerable varia-
tion in crystallinity (Schwertmann et al., 1985), but it is
estimated that iron oxides concentrations in various soils
vary from <0.1 to >50% and they may be evenly distrib-
uted in the matrix or concentrated in horizons, concre-
tions, mottles, bands (Schwertmann, 1991) or clay min-
eral coatings. They may be present in soils as amorphous
iron oxides, which is the most chemically active portion
and also important for geochemistry studies (Chao &
Zhou, 1983). The ratio between amorphous iron oxides
and the total free ion has been used as an index for soil
genesis and classification. When the ratio between free
and total ion approaches 1 (one), it is an indication of the
maturity of a soil (Cornell & Schwertmann, 1996).
The oxide surface charge is pH-dependant, deter-
mined by the H+ and OH- concentrations in solution. Iron
oxides are considered to be the main material in produc-
ing positive surface charge in variable charge soils be-
cause their Fe-OH groups can absorb H
+ from he solu-
tion when the pH is lower than the zero point of charge
(Zhang & Zhao, 1997). The association of iron oxides
with clay minerals may affect the soil negative surface
charge. Silveira et al. (2002) studied Cu adsorption in sur-
face (0-0.2 m) and subsurface samples of a heavy-clayey-
textured Anionic Acrudox, a medium-textured Anionic
“Xanthic” Acrudox and a Rhodic Hapludalf, before and
after the removal of organic matter and/or iron oxides.
When soil pH was below the zero point of salt effect
(ZPSE), the removal of iron oxides increased the reten-
tion of copper, more likely because of a reduction in the
repulsion forces between the positively charged surface
and the metal. For pH values above the ZPSE, oxides ef-
fectively contributed for Cu adsorption, since their re-
moval was followed by a decreasing of the soil capacity
to retain copper.
Iron oxides can markedly affect heavy metal re-
tention, mobility, and bioavailability. Cajuste et al. (2000)
found the greatest amounts of Zn and Cu in the
nonresidual fraction associated to the Fe-Mn oxide frac-
tion, and Sastre et al. (2001) observed Ni bound to Fe
and Mn oxides. In many soils, Fe oxides determine the
availability to plants of both native and applied plant nu-
trients (Singh & Gilkes, 1992). Some heavy metals can
react with the oxide surface, penetrating the coordination
shell of the Fe atom, exchanging their OH and OH2
ligands and forming covalent bonds (Schwertmann &
Taylor, 1977). This specific sorption or chemisorption is
influenced by pH and ion concentration.
Heavy metal adsorption on iron oxides is gener-
ally accompanied by the release of protons, and the ex-
tent of the adsorption is strongly pH dependent (Cornell
& Schwertmann, 1996). Initially, metals are sorbed to the
iron oxide surface sites at the solid-water interface, but
they may diffuse to internal sorption sites, which are not
readily accessible by the bulk solution (Ford et al., 1997).
Some heavy metals, such as Cd, Cu, and Zn, can be
present as constituents of the iron oxide structure (Kabata-
Pendias & Pendias, 1984; Singh & Gilkes, 1992).
The total contents of heavy metals in soil-sludge
mixtures may not reflect their bioavailability. Higher con-
tents of heavy metals in the soil do not always mean
higher plant contents. For some authors, the total metal
concentration is the most useful index to assess the de-
gree of metal accumulation in a soil, but metal
bioavailability is better reflected by soil solution compo-
sition (Mattigod & Page, 1983). Lópes-Mosquera et al.
(2000) did not find significant correlation between the
total metal concentrations in the soil and plant tissues.
Although metal solubility is initially reduced by sorption
reactions, long-term solubility is controlled by chemical
forms, which could vary with time (Martinéz & McBride,
1998). Knowledge of metal distribution and speciation in
solution is essential for understanding soil-metal chem-
istry (Mattigod & Page, 1983).
Metals in solution can occur as free-ions (hy-
drated) or interact with other ions or molecules forming
ion pairs. Natural ecosystems contain an unidentified
number of ligands in different concentrations (Vulkan et
al., 2002). In soil solution, around 100 to 200 different
Biosolids and heavy metals in soils 803
Scientia Agricola, v.60, n.4, p.793-806, Oct./Dec. 2003
soluble complexes can be found (Sposito, 1994). Gener-
ally, free metal cations and sulfate complexes are more
important in acid soils, while carbonate and borate com-
plexes are predominant in alkaline environments (Sposito,
1983). The species present in solution can be exempli-
fied as described in Table 2.
In sludge-amended soils, the metal distribution
depends on a wide range of characteristics of the soil and
the sludge, of which pH is probably the most important
(Obrador et al., 1997). Electrostatic attraction and cova-
lent donor-acceptor reactions are involved in the forma-
tion of ion pairs. To form ion pairs, the oppositely charged
ions should get closer to each other than the usual aver-
age distance. The necessary distance for the formation of
ion pairs (rmin) can be calculated according to equation
( )
π ε
where Zj is the charge of chosen ion j; Zi is the charge of
ion I adjacent to ion j; e is the unit of electric charge; e
is the permittivity of the medium; k is the Boltzmann con-
stant; and T is the thermodynamic temperature.
If rmin is reached, ion pairs can be formed in soil
solution. For instance, in solutions of type 1:1, at 25oC,
the distance for ion pair formation is 0.357 nm, while for
solutions of type 2:2 it is approximately 1.4 nm (Filep,
1999). The ionic strength of the solution affects the types
of ion pairs, i.e., in more concentrated solutions of strong
electrolytes, ions can form ion pairs easier than in diluted
Carbonates, phosphates, molybdates, OH-, and
several other organic compounds, including humates and
fulvates (R) can precipitate with metals. The precipita-
tion of free ions (Mn+) in soil solution depends on the
solubility product Ks (7).
( )
= = (7)
Based on the product of solubility, Lindsay
(1979) described theoretical equations for metals as fol-
log (Al3+) = 8.04 – 3 pH
log (Fe3+) = 2.7 – 3 pH
log (Zn2+) = 5.8 – 2 pH
log (Cu2+) = 2.8 – 2 pH
log (MoO4
2-) = 2 pH – 20.5
In all these cases, the solubility of M is depen-
dent on pH (Kiekens, 1983). Besides pH, the stability
of the complexes is affected by the type of central ion
and by the properties of the ligand (Filep, 1999).
For transition metals with unsaturated d orbital
(Mn2+, Mn3+, Fe2+ , Fe3+, Co2+, Ni2+, Cu2+, Zn2+, Cr3+), the
dative (coordinative) bonds are dominant in their com-
plex compounds. The higher the oxidation state,
the more stable is the complex with the ligand (Filep,
1999). The trend to form complexes between metal and
ligands in soils can be explained based on the principle
of hard, soft acid and base (HSAB). A Lewis acid is any
chemical species that employs an empty electronic orbital
in initiating a complexation reaction, while a Lewis base
is any chemical species that employs a doubly occupied
electronic orbital in initiating a complexation reaction.
The proton and all of the metal cations of interest in soil
solutions are Lewis acids (Table 3). The Lewis bases in-
clude H
2O, oxyanions such as OH-, COO-, CO2
-, SO4
2-, and inorganic N, S and P electron donors. The
HSAB divides Lewis acids and bases according to the fol-
lowing categories:
a) Hard Lewis acid: is a molecular unit of relatively small
size, high oxidation state, high electronegativity, and
low polarizability. They have outer electrons relatively
difficult to excite to higher energies;
b) Soft Lewis acid: is of relatively large size, low oxida-
tion state, low electronegativity, and high polarizabil-
ity. They have outer electrons relatively easy to excite
to higher energies;
Metal Principle species
Acid soils Alkaline Soils
Mn(II) Mn2+, MnSO40, Org Mn2+, MnSO40, MnCO30, MnHCO3+, MnB(OH)4+
Fe(II) Fe2+, FeSO40, FeH2PO4+,Fe2+, FeCO30, FeHCO3+, FeSO40
Ni(II) Ni2+, NiSO40, NiHCO3+, Org NiCO30, NiHCO3+, Ni2+, NiB(OH)4+
Cu(II) Org, Cu2+ CuCO30, Org, CuB(OH)4+, Cu(B(OH)4)20
Zn(II) Zn2+, ZnSO40ZnHCO3+, ZnCO30, Zn2+, ZnSO40, ZnB(OH)4+
Cd(II) Cd2+, CdSO40, CdCl+Cd2+, CdCl+, CdSO40, CdHCO3+
Pb(II) Pb2+, Org, PbSO40, PbHCO3+PbCO30, PbHCO3+, Pb(CO3)22-, PbOH+
Table 2 - Main chemical species of trace metals in acid and alkaline soil solutions (oxic conditions). (Adapted from Sposito,
Silveira et al.
Scientia Agricola, v.60, n.4, p.793-806, Oct./Dec. 2003
c) Hard Lewis base: is a molecular unit of high electrone-
gativity and low polarizability. It tends to be difficult
to oxidize and does not posses low-energy, empty elec-
tronic orbitals;
d) Soft Lewis base: has low electronegativity, high po-
larizability and a proclivity toward oxidation.
The separation of hard acids or bases from soft
ones is not sharp. There is a gradual change as the polar-
izability of a Lewis acid increases. After the metal-ligand
complex formation, others ligands may compete to de-
stabilize it and form new complexes with the metal cat-
ion (Sposito, 1994).
The HSAB principle indicates that hard acids
tend to form complexes with hard bases. On the other
hand, soft acids have higher affinity to form complexes
with soft bases. This principle, although empirical, can
lead to the conclusion that speciation of trace metals will
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Free-metal species are generally bioavailable, and
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Hard Acids
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BHard Bases
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Borderline Bases
C6H5NH2, C2H5N, N2, NO2-, SO32-, Br-, (Cl-)
Soft Bases
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... The bio-solid materials applied in soil are a common practice in many countries that allow the reuse of bio-solids produced by urban populations [109]. The bio-solids term is more common in place sewage sludge because it is thought to reflect more accurately the beneficial characteristics inherent to sewage sludge [90]. Bio-solids content various heavy metals (Pb, Ni, Cd, Cr, Cu& Zn), and these metals concentrations are governed by the nature and industrial activity, as well as the type of process employed during the bio-solids treatment [55]. ...
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Heavy metals are the most important soil contaminants in the environment. Heavy metals are the integrated components of the biosphere and thus occur naturally in soils and plants. Heavy metals (Cd, Cr, Cu, Hg, Pb, and Zn) have occurred widely as a result of human, agricultural and industrial activities which is responsible for the contamination of soils. Some of these metals are micro-nutrients that are necessary for plant growth, such as Zn, Cu, Mn, Ni, and Co, while others have unknown biological functions, such as Cd and Pb. Agricultural activities involve the addition of inorganic fertilizers, insecticides, pesticides, and amendments to the soil for increasing productivity are responsible for soil contamination/pollution. Water used for irrigation and the release of industrial effluents in water resources pollute the soil with solid wastes, heavy metals, and several other organic and inorganic substances. Reclamation of such contaminated soils through the phytoremediation method was found to be the cheapest and an effective method for extraction or removal of pollutants from contaminated soils.
... Soil pH and temperature also greatly influence the accumulation and availability of these heavy metals on soils [11] (Shakery et al, 2010). Precipitation, complexation, ion exchange are several factors that also affects the distribution of heavy metals in the environment [12](Silveriia et al 2003). In this present study, the occurrence and health risk impacts of heavy metals found in some selected school playgrounds in Delta State metropolis was evaluated. ...
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The present study was conducted to evaluate the possible occurrence and toxicological health risk impacts of heavy metals on topsoil in ten selected school playgrounds located in Delta State. The results of the Atomic Absorption Spectroscopy analysis revealed the concentrations of the heavy metals present in various schools in the decreasing trend as follows; Cu>Pb>Cr>Cd>Hg>As. Multivariate pollution indices were further deployed to ascertain the degree of contamination, sources, accumulation and health impacts of the metals. The result of the index of geoaccumulation (Igeo) recorded values lesser than 1 in all the sites, which suggests an acceptable standard value. On the other hand, the results of the contamination factor and pollution load index had higher values when compared with the baseline, indicating higher levels of site contamination. The enrichment factors of all the metals were greater than 1 except Hg which indicates that the pollutants were mainly of anthropogenic sources. The levels of average daily oral intake of the metals were slightly above their respective oral reference doses. However, the non-cancer hazard quotient and total hazard index indicated that no significant health risks is posed from the current levels of the metal deposits on the topsoil as the values were still below 1, which is an acceptable standard.
... However, the lettuce accumulated the least Pb concentration, whereas Chinese cabbage had the highest Pb accumulation (Table 4). Bi et al. (2018) reported that the Pb concentration in the edible part varied for different vegetable species, which might be due to their different plant accumulation abilities and soil Pb concentrations (Silveira et al., 2003). However, the Pb concentration in leafy vegetables was higher than in fruiting vegetables, such as bean, bell pepper, corn, hot pepper, tomato, and zucchini (Finster et al., 2004). ...
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Soil Pb extractability and critical Pb levels in soils were examined for three leafy vegetables grown in artificially Pb-contaminated soils at different Pb concentrations in a greenhouse experiment. Soil Pb extractability was quantified using eight extractants, and the Pb concentration was determined in two different parts of the leafy vegetables (edible parts and roots). The results showed that the extracted Pb concentrations in soils using aqua regia, DTPA, EDTA, 0.5 M HCl, Mehlich-3, and 0.43 M HNO3 had significant (p < 0.01) relationships with Pb concentrations in the edible parts and roots of the leafy vegetables. The results indicated that these extractants were highly suitable for estimating the critical Pb level in soils and describing the maximum allowable level of Pb in leafy vegetables (0.3 mg kg⁻¹). Based on the quality of the linear models (R² = 0.535–0.649) and the extracted Pb in the soils, we proposed the Mehlich-3 soil test as the standard for soil quality for leafy vegetable production, with the calculated critical level of Pb in soils for growing leafy vegetables, based on this test being 61.39 mg kg⁻¹. Furthermore, the results indicated that Pb is more easily transferred from soil to root than from root to shoot, preventing Pb accumulation in the edible part of leafy vegetables.
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Purpose Due to the urgent need for sustainable agro-industrial waste management, a field experiment was conducted to evaluate the application of biosolids as organic fertilizer in a corn cultivation crop. The study aimed to measure metals concentrations and assess enrichment factor (EF) in soil and corn plants as they are important factors to consider in order to achieve food security. Method Four sites where biosolids are applied were studied and compared against a control. Physicochemical properties of soils and heavy metal contents were evaluated after one year of application of biosolids. Metal concentrations, average kernel yield and biomass were measured in corn plants. Results The results demonstrated that the application of biosolids increased the content of organic matter, nitrogen , phosphorus, and exchangeable bases in the soil. Additionally, the concentration of heavy metals in soils with biosolids was higher than in soils without treatment, and the concentration of heavy metals in the corn kernels did not exceed the maximum recommended limits. However, EF values showed a considerable contamination level due to the accumulation of metals. Conclusion Some of the soil physical and chemical characteristics were improved by incorporating biosolids, but the metal content in the soil increased as well. Also, the application of biosolids increased the plant height and corn yield. Therefore, biosolids can be used as organic fertilizer sources; however, it is necessary to carry out periodic evaluations to ensure low levels of enrichment in crops and soil, thus guaranteeing the safety of biosolids as soil fertilizers.
Although the effects of reductive soil disinfestation (RSD) in soil sterilization have been proven in several countries, the potential risks of trace metal elements (TMEs) caused by RSD require further assessment. Here, freshly Cd-spiked soil and historically contaminated greenhouse soil were exposed to RSD and the fates of TMEs, Cd, Co, Cu, Ni, Pb, and Zn, were investigated. All RSD treatments lasted for 21 days and subsamples were collected at different time intervals. Samples were open-air incubated for another 7 days until day 28 to simulate the situation after drainage. The bioavailability and geochemical fractionation of TMEs were investigated based on single and sequential extraction procedures and the environmental risks were assessed. The results showed that RSD increased the relative abundance of Firmicutes and Bacteroidetes, and the content of functional groups, including Fe, Mn, and S compounds respirations increased after RSD, highlighting the possible reductive dissolution of FeMn oxides and precipitation of TMEs. The dissolution decreased the reducible fractions of TMEs and increased the acid-soluble fractions of Co, Ni, Pb, and Zn, in the European Community Bureau of Reference results, reflecting the activation of TMEs in soils. However, the precipitation of sulfate resulted in the stabilization of Cd and Cu in two types of soils, increased their residual fractions, and decreased their acid-soluble fractions and bioavailabilities. After drainage, because the influence caused by precipitation rapidly disappeared and the impact of FeMn oxides dissolution remained, the acid-solubility of TMEs was greater than their initial status in the two soils. Furthermore, as a highly toxic metal, the activation of Cd at 28 days caused the rapid increase of ecological risks, which is particularly concerning. The results suggest that RSD temporarily increases the potential risks of TMEs and that certain measures must be taken.
Effluent and sediment samples were collected on seasonal basis, comprising of three months (August to October) in the wet season and three months (December to February) in the dry season from five points around a lubricating oil company in Osogbo - Nigeria. The sequential extraction method was used to respectively fractionate the sediment and effluent samples, then analyzed by Atomic Absorption Spectrophotometry (AAS) to determine concentrations of five heavy metals: Mn, Ni Co, Cd and Pb. Results showed that in wet season, higher concentration of Mn was found in exchangeable fraction, Ni and Pb were more pronounced in carbonate bound fraction, Cd in Fe-Mn oxide fraction, while Co was more in residual fraction. In dry season, Pb was more concentrated in exchangeable fraction, Coin residual fraction, Mn in Fe-Mn oxide fraction, Cd in organic matter bound, while Ni was more concentrated in the carbonate fraction. In both seasons for sediment samples, Cd concentrations were found above the set limit by WHO. The speciation study of the effluent showed that, Mn, Co and Ni concentration were found more in Organic substances fraction in both seasons, Pb was more concentrated in free metal ion fraction in wet season while it was high in organic fraction in the dry season. Concentrations of all metals in the effluent samples in both seasons were above the maximum permissible limit for effluent. The high mobility factors of heavy metals in the sediment indicated that the metals were labile and bioavailable thereby making the soil and the living organisms vulnerable to possibility of high heavy metal bioaccumulation.Key Words: Heavy Metals, Speciation, Effluents, Sediment
Copper and zinc are toxic heavy metals in soils that require development of feasible strategies for remediation of contaminated soils around the mine areas. In this study, the processing conditions and mechanisms of immobilization and bioleaching for remediation of highly contaminated soils with heavy metals are investigated. Soil remediation is carried out using a bioleaching-immobilization bipolar method. The results show that LSE03 bacteria provide efficient leaching result and immobilization on Cu2+ and Zn2+. Among the bacterial metabolites, cis, cis-muconic acid and isovaleric acid play major roles in the bioleaching process. The bacterial extracellular polymeric substances are rich in a variety of organic acids that show a significant decrease in content after the adsorption process, indicating that all of these substances are involved in the binding of heavy metals. Characterization of the endophytes and immobilizing agents with FTIR, TEM-mapping, and XPS techniques reveal the ability of both bacteria and composites to adsorb Cu-Zn as well as the main functional groups of -OH, -COOH, -PO43-, and -NH. According to the heavy metals species analyses, competitive adsorption experiments, and bioleaching desorption experiments, it is planned to carry out the bipolar remediation of contaminated soil through immobilization followed by bioleaching process. After bipolar remediation processing, 97.923% and 96.387% of available Cu and Zn are respectively removed. Soils fertility significantly increases in all cases. Our study provides a green, practical, and environmentally friendly treatment method for soils contaminated with high concentrations of heavy metals.
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Heavy metals are found naturally in the topsoil and are exploited for various industrial and economic activities such as sludges, emission and wastewater. Among these heavy metals, some have direct and indirect impact on the human body and agriculture. Some of these heavy metals such as copper, cobalt, iron, nickel, magnesium, molybdenum, chromium, selenium, manganese, lead and zinc have functional roles which are essential for various diverse physiological and biochemical activities in the human body and agricultural soil. However, some of these heavy metals when we get beyond tolerable limit are harmful to the communities at the prescribe level. Mainly cadmium, mercury, lead, chromium, silver, and arsenic in minute quantities causing acute and chronic toxicities in humans and environment. The main objective of the study is to describe the various mechanism of intoxication of some selected heavy metals in humans along with their health effects and arable land. Therefore, the study is to highlight on biochemical mechanisms of heavy metal intoxication which involves binding to proteins and enzymes, altering their activity and causing damage of livelihood. Moreover, the mechanism by which heavy metals cause neurotoxicity, generate free radical which promotes oxidative stress damaging lipids, proteins and DNA molecules and how these free radicals propagate carcinogenesis are discussed. Alongside these mechanisms, the noxious health effects of these heavy metals are discussed mainly human body. Soil pollution is a very vital issue all over the world because of lowering productivity loss 7% only for soil salinity among others, heavy metals and metalloids contamination viz, lead (Pb), Cadmium (Cd), Zinc (Zn), chromium (Cr) etc. is another burning issue of the present days which are come from industrial sludges, sewerage and ground water arsenic pollution. The aforesaid pollutants are not only posing arable land but also water bodies in the river band of Turag, Bhuriganga, Balu, Shitalakha, Meghna, Jamuna, Halda and other branches of rivers and beels, hoars, lakes cause destroying ecosystem even extinct of indigenous species of animals, plants and aquatics. On the other side, coastal belt is polluted by saline water both are hampering productivity other than saline tolerant plants. Introduction :
Trace elements may be either essential or toxic to organisms. The most common trace elements in soils are Cd, As, Cr, Hg, Pb, Ni, Zn, and Cu. Pollution of trace elements in soils may be natural or anthropogenic, with the latter including agricultural and industrial sources. Different trace elements pose variable potential risks to ecosystems, food safety and human health. Cadmium and As have low phytotoxicity, and a high risk of soil–food chain transfer posing a threat to food safety and human health, whereas Zn, Ni, Cu, and Cr are ecotoxic at elevated concentrations, thereby posing risks to productivity and functions of ecosystems including C and N cycles.
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Soils interact in many ways with metal ions thereby modifying their mobility, phase distribution, plant availability, speciation, and so on. The most prominent of such interactions is sorption. In this study, we investigated the sorption of Pb, Cd, and Cu in five natural soils of Nigerian origin. A relatively sparsely used method of modelling soil-metal ion adsorption, i.e. adaptive neuro-fuzzy inference system (ANFIS), was applied comparatively with multiple linear regression (MLR) models. The isotherms were well described by Freundlich and Langmuir equations ( R ² ≥ 0.95) and the kinetics by nonlinear two-stage kinetic model, TSKM ( R ² ≥ 0.81). Based on the values delivered by the Langmuir equation, the maximum adsorption capacities ( Q m *) were found to be in the ranges 10,000–20,000, 12,500–50,000, and 4929–35,037 µmol kg ⁻¹ for Cd, Cu, and Pb, respectively. The study revealed significant correlations between Q m * and routinely determined soil parameters such as soil organic carbon ( C org ), cation exchange capacity (CEC), amorphous Fe and Mn oxides, and percentage clay content. These soil parameters, combined with operational variables (i.e. solution/soil pH, initial metal concentration ( C o ), and temperature), were used as input vectors in ANFIS and MLR models to predict the adsorption capacities ( Q e ) of the soil-metal ion systems. A total of 255 different ANFIS and 255 different MLR architectures/models were developed and compared based on three performance metrics: MAE (mean absolute error), RMSE (root mean square errors), and R ² (coefficient of determination). The best ANFIS returned MAE test 0.134, RMSE test 0.164, and R ² test 0.76, while the best MLR returned MAE test 0.158, RMSE test 0.199, and R ² test 0.66, indicating the predictive advantage of ANFIS over MLR. Thus, ANFIS can fairly accurately predict the adsorption capacity and/or distribution coefficient of a soil-metal ion system a priori. Nevertheless, more investigation is required to further confirm the robustness/generalisation of the proposed ANFIS.
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O cádmio pode ser adicionado ao solo por meio de resíduos de pneus, óleos, lixo urbano, lodo de esgoto e fertilizantes fosfatados. É facilmente absorvido e translocado nas plantas e tem potencial de entrar na cadeia alimentar humana, causando sérios problemas de saúde. Os objetivos deste trabalho foram estudar a adsorção de cádmio em camadas superficiais e subsuperficiais de dois Latossolos ácricos de diferentes texturas, com balanço positivo de cargas em profundidade, bem como comparar os resultados com os obtidos para o Nitossolo Vermelho eutroférrico (NVef), todos localizados no norte do estado de São Paulo. Valores de adsorção máxima (b) e de afinidade do solo ao íon cádmio (K), obtidos pela equação de Langmuir, foram correlacionados com atributos químicos e mineralógicos dos solos. Com a elevação do pH, houve expressivo aumento na adsorção de cádmio para todas as amostras. Os horizontes superficiais adsorveram maiores quantidades de cádmio em relação aos horizontes B, graças ao maior teor de matéria orgânica nesta camada. O NVef adsorveu maiores quantidades de cádmio do que os Latossolos. Os parâmetros K e b de Langmuir foram positivamente correlacionados com carbono orgânico, capacidade de troca de cátions, retenção de cátions, superfície específica, teor de argila, quantidade de cargas negativas variáveis e permanentes. A capacidade de troca de cátions e o pH foram os fatores preponderantes no controle da adsorção de cádmio nos solos estudados.
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Soil chemists have long-recognized that knowledge of the elemental composition of soils is generally of little use in assessing the availability of these elements to plants. An obvious illustration of this principle is the common occurrence of Fe and Mn deficiency in plants despite the relatively high levels of Fe and Mn in many soils. For this reason, chemical soil tests have relied on measurement of extractable or “labile” fractions of elements. Such tests are empirical and provide little basis to relate metal extractability to the chemical forms of the metal in the soil. As soils are increasingly used in our society for purposes other than agriculture, the frequency and extent of soil contamination by toxic metals will increase. Empirical relationships may have to be replaced by a more fundamental understanding of the soil processes controlling metal solubility to prevent practices that could have deleterious effects on soil productivity and environmental quality.
This book, based on research carried out at the Academia Sinica over the past 30 years, explains the basic difference between the variable charge soils of tropical and subtropical regions, and the constant charge soils of temperate regions. It will focus on the chemical properties of the variable charge soils--properties which have important bearing on soil management practices, including maximizing soil productivity and combating soil pollution.
Adsorption of ions is a direct consequence of the carrying of surface charge for soils. Owing to the characteristics of variable charge soils in chemical and mineralogical compositions, these soils possess distinct amphoteric properties. Therefore, they can adsorb cations as well as anions. Under field conditions, most of the variable charge soils carry more negative surface charge than positive surface charge, hence they adsorb more cations than anions. Under certain conditions the quantities of adsorbed cations and anions are equal to each other. In this case the soil is said to be at its iso-ionic point. Generally, for most cations commonly found in soils, the interaction force between them and the surface of soil particles during adsorption is electrostatic in nature. However, owing to the characteristics of variable charge soils, a specific force may also be involved in the adsorption of some cations. This latter topic shall be discussed in Chapter 5. In this chapter, only electrostatic adsorption is dealt with. In the present chapter, the mechanism of electrostatic adsorption of cations by variable charge soils and the factors that may affect this type of adsorption are presented first. Then, the dissociation of adsorbed cations is discussed. Finally, the competitive adsorptions of potassium ions with sodium ions and of potassium ions with calcium ions are examined. According to the definition in physical chemistry, the concentration of solute in the surface layer of the solution is different from that in the interior of the bulk solution. If the concentration of solute in the surface layer is higher than that in the interior, the phenomenon is called adsorption. Conversely, it is called negative adsorption. In soil science, on the other hand, the heterogeneity in distribution of ions in soil colloidal systems is interpreted mainly in terms of electrostatic interactions occurring at the interface between soil colloidal particles and the liquid phase (Bear, 1964). Owing to adsorption or negative adsorption, the concentration of ions at the surface of soil colloidal particles or adjacent to the surface is higher or lower than that in the diffuse layer or the free solution.
In the adsorption of cations by soils, except for the electrostatic force discussed in Chapter 3, specific forces between the surface of soil particles and the cations may sometimes be involved. The adsorption caused by these specific forces is called specific adsorption. Apparently, this adsorption would be related to both the nature of the cations and the surface properties of the soil. Generally speaking, various oxides are the principal materials responsible for specific adsorption of cations in soils. Variable charge soils contain large amounts of iron and aluminum oxides. At the same time, their negative surface charge sites that can attract cations electrostatically are small in quantity. It can be expected that, compared to constant charge soils, their specific adsorption for cations would have more significance. Most of the cation species that can be adsorbed specifically by soils, such as copper, zinc, cobalt, and cadmium, belong to heavy metals. A large part of these heavy metals are transition elements in the periodic table. Alkali metal and alkaline earth metal ions can also be adsorbed specifically to some extent by soils under certain circumstances. However, this kind of adsorption is of less importance when compared to electrostatic adsorption, and the mechanism involved may be different from that for heavy metals. Among heavy metals, zinc occupies a special position in soil science because it is one important nutrient element for plants. In this chapter, after treatment on the principles of specific adsorption of heavy metal ions, detailed discussions will be presented for both the relative importance of specific adsorption and electrostatic adsorption of these ions and the consequences of specific adsorption, using the adsorption of zinc ions as an example. The cause of the difference in properties between the transition metal ions and the alkali metal and alkaline earth metal ions with respect to adsorption lies primarily in the difference in their atomic structure. Alkali metal and alkaline earth metal ions are characterized by a small amount of electric charge in the atomic nucleus, large ionic size, and weak polarizability. Therefore, the atom is difficult to deform.
This review covers solubility equilibria in solid species, the ion activity product, activity ratio diagrams, and coprecipitation phenomena. For adsorbed species the headings are: empirical adsorption isotherms, ligand effects on trace metal adsorption, surface complexation models; and for aqueous species: trace metal species in soil solution, and distribution coefficients. The two final sections cover the influence of oxidation and reduction reaction in soils, and computer calculation of trace metal speciation. -K.Clayton
Metal pollution in soils can result from natural conditions or anthropogenic metal additions from such sources as sewage sludge, fly ash, road traffic, mining and smelting. The final section discusses the chemical modelling of metal speciation in soils, and in particular the use of a multi-purpose chemical equilibrium computer program GEOCHEM. -K.Clayton