Remediation of contaminated sites

The health impact and the remediation of sites contaminated by industrial activities (e.g. petrochemical, waste treatment, power generation) is an important issue in Europe and a priority for WHO in the environment and health area. 

Earlier industrialization and poor environmental management practices have left a legacy of over 100 000 contaminated sites across the European Region, many of which still operate unsafely. Malpractice, lack of legislation, or lack of implementation of legislation, are the causes of contamination. 

Past and current activities can cause local and diffuse accumulation of environmental stressors to an extent that might threaten human health and the environment, by altering air quality, contaminating soil, and polluting groundwater and surface water. 

For example, a mortality study of residents in Italian polluted sites (SENTIERI study) found that  in 44 sites identified as being of national interest in Italy there were nearly 10 000 excess deaths (+2.5% of the total) in the period 1995 to 2002. 

Health protection and site remediation

WHO provides advice to Member States on possible measures to protect health and rehabilitate contaminated  sites, and on request also provides support through capacity-building activities.

WHO works in partnerships with a network of experts composed of representatives of environmental and public health agencies at national and international level, and research experts.