Living on a contaminated property

You can easily protect yourself against the impacts of contaminated soil by following a few simple precautionary rules. What are the impacts of contaminated soil on a residential property?

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Garden on an old landfill.JPGThe difference between light and h​​​eavily soil contamination

It is important to distinguish between light soil contamination and heavily soil contamination

Put simply, it is quite safe to live on a property with light contaminated soil if you follow a few simple precautionary rules.

Genera​​l advice abo​ut protecting children and adults against exposure to soil contamination

If there is heavily contamination of the soil on your property, you have a number of options and duties.

Air pollution is often to blame for light conta​​​mination of soil

Light contaminated soil is found in many areas in Denmark, especially in urban areas. This kind of contamination has accumulated over many years. It stems from many different sources, e.g. exhaust from cars, heating for buildings, as well as smoke and dust emissions from industry.

Mapping li​ght contaminated soil is not necessary

Soil in urban areas is often considered to be light contaminated. Soil that is only light contaminated does not need to be mapped or removed, it is a good idea to follow the advi​ce given here.

Follow​ this advice and protect yourself and your family from impacts from light contaminated soil

The health risks of light contaminated soil are minimal compared with the many other risk factors that we are exposed to every day.

They can be compared to the risks we are exposed to through the food we eat every day. You can easily avoid the risks from being exposed to light contaminated soil by following a few simple pieces of advice.

Genera​​l advice about protecting children and adults against exposure to soil contamination

Previously, the industrial sector was typically to blame for heavily contami​nated soil

Heavily contaminated soil can be found on properties that have previously housed landfills, petrol stations or a dry cleaners. On properties such as these, the contamination stems from substances that have seeped out from e.g. leaky drums, tanks and sewer systems.

Properties with​ heavily soil contamination should be mapped

The region must map properties with heavily soil contamination and clean up these properties if the contamination constitutes a risk for:

  •     Homes
  •     Daycare facilities (for 0-6-year-olds)
  •     Public playgrounds or
  •     Valuable groundwater

Health ris​ks of heavily soil contamination

The health risks of heavily contamination depend on the nature of the contamination.

In some cases contamination can spread from the soil and into homes, and this may negatively affect the indoor climate. If this happens, the region will make every effort to protect residents from any risks from the contamination.

However, sometimes the contamination does not spread from the soil. In such cases it only constitutes a problem if you are in direct contact with the contaminated soil, or if the soil is excavated.

Children ​are especially vulnerable

Small children are more vulnerable towards contamination than adults are. This is because small children eat more, breathe in more and have a greater body surface area compared with body mass.

Moreover children are also more vulnerable than adults because they touch the soil, put it in their mouth and play with it.

You should therefore always ensure that children do not come into contact with contaminated soil - regardless of whether the contamination is light or heavily.

 

General ad​​​vice about protecting children and adults against exposure to soil contamination

Clean soil

No restrictions.
General advice

  • It is always a good idea to wash your hands after working or playing in the garden.
Light      contaminated 
soil

The region is not obliged to map light contaminated soil.


Follow the advice given here.


Report removal of soil to the municipality.

General advice
  • Prevent children from playing with contaminated soil or from putting it in their mouth.
  • Cover exposed soil with paving stones, pebbles, gravel or bark chips - or sow grass or plant cover vegetation.
  • Wash your hands after working or playing in the garden.
  • Change your shoes when you go inside to prevent spreading soil to floors and carpets.
  • Grow strawberries and herbs in clean soil. It is difficult to rinse all the soil off these plants as they grow so close to the ground.
  • Wash fruit and vegetables.
  • Peel root vegetables before use as they grow directly in the soil.
  • Use sandboxes with a solid bottom.
  • Lay down a covering surface under swings and other outdoor play equipment.
Heavily soil contamination

The region is obliged to map the contamination.

Follow the advice given here.

Report removal of soil to the municipality.

Apply to the local authority for authorisation to commence any building projects.
General advice

In the event of heavily soil contamination, you should be extra careful. This is why we recommend that you follow the general advice given for ht soil contamination as well as follow these more detailed guidelines:

  • Do not touch the soil with your bare hands - always use gardening gloves.
  • Do not grow vegetables and fruit in the soil. Instead grow in pots, raised beds and soil sacks using clean soil.

If there is surface evaporation from the soil contamination
You can limit the impact of the contamination that can spread from the soil to your home by:

  • Opening doors and windows out two to three times a day
  • Refraining from using the basement for living purposes
  • Installing air vents in the base of the house to increase ventilation.
  

 

Raised beds are almost small framed vegetable patches. A raised bed can be made of wood, concrete, granite or cobblestones that are mounted directly on the ground and filled with 50 cm clean soil.

For more deta​iled ​advice, see the Danish EPA’s website (in danish)

What you ca​n do and what you must do if your property is contaminated

If you own a contaminated property, you have a number of options with regard to having your property investigated and possibly having the contamination removed. You also have a number of responsiblities. You have the same responsibilities, even if your property is only suspected of being contaminated.

Responsible editor