Soil pollution — speed up global mapping

Tsinghua University, Beijing, China.

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Korea University, Seoul, South Korea.

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Too few countries are investing in national surveys of soil pollution. A global map is urgently needed, not least to prevent international trading of contaminated produce and the migration of persistent organic pollutants across borders. We urge all member states at next month’s fourth session of the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA) to speed up their assessments.

A global map of soil pollution will also guide policymakers on protecting soils; inform chemical and waste management (see Y. Geng et al. Nature 565, 153–155; 2019); prevent further pollution by identifying sources and controlling polluter behaviour; and reduce risks to public health and the environment.

The World Health Organization and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization are among those required by the UNEA since December 2017 to report on the extent of global soil pollution, monitor future trends and identify associated risks and impacts. The results will be presented at the UNEA’s fifth session in 2021. Many hurdles must be overcome before a global assessment can be made. Collaboration between developing and developed nations in allocating technical and financial resources is a priority.

Nature 566, 455 (2019)

doi: 10.1038/d41586-019-00669-x

Updates & Corrections

  • Correction 28 March 2019: An earlier version of this Correspondence erroneously stated that the fifth UNEA session will take place in 2020.

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