Trace Element Abundance and Human Epidemiology

The aim of this research, funded by the Tellus Border project ( is to investigate human health risks associated with exposure to potentially toxic elements (PTE) in soils across Northern Ireland and selected border county regions in Ireland using Northern Ireland Tellus and Tellus Border Survey geochemical data and soil archives.

To meet this aim, an interdisciplinary project team from SPACE, the School of Geography, Archaeology and Palaeoecology and QUB-Centre for Public Health joined with staff from British Geological Survey, to focus on nine key objectives, seven of which have included the investigation mechanisms governing the typical concentrations, source appointment, mobility and bioaccessibility of PTEs observed to be present at elevated levels in soils across the study area.

In conjunction with their presence at elevated levels, PTEs were selected on the basis of known toxicities and association with human disease burdens. PTES selected included nickel (Ni), chromium (Cr), arsenic (As), lead (Pb) and cadmium (Cd).


Project team

Ulrich Ofterdinger, Siobhan Cox, Rory Doherty, Sherry Palmer and Rebekka McIlwaine
(School of Planning, Architecture and Civil Engineering, Queen's University Belfast)

Jenny McKinley
(School of Geography, Archaeology and Palaeoecology, Queen's University Belfast)

Damian Fogarty
(Centre for Public Health, Queens University Belfast)

Mark Cave and Joanna Wragg
(British Geological Survey)