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Albanese S., Iavazzo P., Adamo P., Lima A. and De Vivo B., 2012


Assessment of the environmental conditions of the Sarno river basin (south Italy): a stream sediment approach.


Environ Geochem Health.


DOI 10.1007/s10653-012-9483-x




The Sarno river basin covers an area of 500 km2 collecting the waters of Solofrana and Cavaiola tributaries. Originally it manly represents a source of livelihood for inhabitants by fishing and transporting goods; currently, the Sarno river, still partially used for irrigation, is affected by an extreme environmental degradation as a result of uncontrolled outflow of industrial waste. Within the framework of a wider geochemical prospecting project aiming at

characterizing the whole territory of the Campania region, 89 stream sediment samples with a sampling density of 1 sample per 5 km2 were collected in the river basin and analyzed by means of inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry in order to assess the environmental conditions at a regional scale. A GIS-aided technique, based on both the actual distribution of potentially harmful elements and their regional background values, was used to generate the

maps of the contamination factors and of the contamination degrees for As, Cd, Cr, Cu, Hg, Pb and Zn. Furthermore, a factor analysis was performed to assess the nature and the extent of contamination sources for the river sediments. Results showed that the Sarno river basin could be divided in two ‘‘environmental status’’ units: one, low contaminated, corresponding to

the hilly and mountain areas, and the second, from moderately to very highly contaminated, corresponding to the economically developed areas of the valley floor characterized by a high population density. This work was developed within a project that aims to investigate the relationships between environmental pollution and human health by analyzing environmental media (stream sediments, water, soil and vegetation) together with human hair of resident

population. In this context, the spatial correlation between the extremely compromised environmental conditions of developed areas and the incidence rate of liver cancer in the same area was also explored posing the need of a careful costs/benefits analysis to assess whether the deterioration of the environment, that could adversely affect the conditions of public health, is worth the economic development.


Keywords: Sarno; Stream sediments; Contamination factor; Contamination degree; Factor analysis