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Synthesised molecules are still widely dispersed in the environment and lead to a heightened environmental risk in view of their widespread use over recent decades, their high levels of toxicity, the fact that they are dispersed over vast areas and affect various kinds of biota and abiota (whose ultimate fate in each case rests on their chemical and physical properties), their persistence and propensity to accumulate in organisms. These molecules produce a different sort of pollution compared to that caused by the more usual household waste: they possess radically different properties and behaviours to those of molecules usually present in cells of living organisms or in natural substances (Galassi, 1991). It is above all in the case of river sediments that these circumstances can impact negatively on the local environment, e.g. when rivers burst their banks or traffic is particularly heavy. By analysing sediments - which frequently act as environmental repositories for all kinds of pollutants - important data can be obtained on the state of health of lakes, rivers and seas. Their chemical composition reflects the natural processes that occur when the catchment basin is gradually washed away. This in turn is affected by activities man chooses to perform directly or indirectly in the local aquatic environment, and applies particularly to substances such as micro-organic pollutants, foodstuffs and heavy metals, which given their chemical properties are largely absorbed at the solid phase.

Additional information

Authors: MANTUA H, Istituto dell'Ambeinte, Centro Comune di Recerca, Ispra (IT);VACCA S, Istituto dell'Ambeinte, Centro Comune di Recerca, Ispra (IT);BIANCHI M, Istituto dell'Ambeinte, Centro Comune di Recerca, Ispra (IT)
Bibliographic Reference: EUR: 19678 IT (2000) 276pp, Euro: free of charge
Availability: Available from Documentation Service JRC, Ispra (IT) Fax: +39-0332-7858182
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