Contamination and remediation of phthalic acid esters in agricultural soils in China: a review

Lizhi He, Gerty Gielen, Nanthi S. Bolan, Xiaokai Zhang, Hua Qin, Huagang Huang, Hailong Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

240 Citations (Scopus)


Phthalic acid esters have been used as plasticizers in numerous products and classified as endocrine-disrupting compounds. As China is one of the largest consumers of phthalic acid esters, some human activities may lead to the accumulation of phthalic acid esters in soil and result in contamination. Therefore, it is necessary for us to understand the current contamination status and to identify appropriate remediation technologies. Here, we reviewed the potential sources, distribution, and contamination status of phthalic acid esters in soil. We then described the ecological effect and human risk of phthalic acid esters and finally provided technologies to remediate phthalic acid esters. We found that (1) the application of plastic agricultural films, municipal biosolids, agricultural chemicals, and wastewater irrigation have been identified as the main sources for phthalic acid ester contamination in agricultural soil; (2) the distribution of phthalic acid esters in soils is determined by factors such as anthropogenic behaviors, soil type, properties of phthalic acid esters, seasonal variation, etc.; (3) the concentrations of phthalic acid esters in soil in most regions of China are exceeding the recommended values of soil cleanup guidelines used by the US Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA), causing phthalic acid ester in soils to contaminate vegetables; (4) phthalic acid esters are toxic to soil microbes and enzymes; and (5) phthalic acid ester-contaminated soil can be remedied by degradation, phytoremediation, and adsorption.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)519-534
Number of pages16
JournalAgronomy for Sustainable Development
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2015
Externally publishedYes


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