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Allowable Soil Contamination


Experimental Substantiation of Maximum Permissible Soil Contamination after Chemical Terrorist Acts

Tech Area / Field

  • BIO-SFS/Biosafety and BioSecurity/Biotechnology
  • BIO-MIB/Microbiology/Biotechnology
  • ENV-OTH/Other/Environment

8 Project completed

Registration date

Completion date

Senior Project Manager
Genisaretskaya S V

Leading Institute
Scientific Research Institute of Hygiene, Toxicology and Occupational Pathology, Russia, Volgograd reg., Volgograd


  • Royal Military College of Canada, Canada, ON, Kingston

Project summary

The release of chemical agents, either accidentally during weapon and stockpile destruction or by terrorists, poses significant risks to all components of the environment, including soil.

In fact, soil contamination by highly toxic substances is a special hazard, as it compromises the normal and yet essential functions of self-purification and the support of biological activity.

Due to its complex composition, soil not only serves to accumulate and destroy chemical substances, but also an intermediate stage in the migration and transport of chemical species to atmospheric air and both ground and standing water. Soil also can be a source of circulation around trophic chains and a medium for the formation of new forms of soil bacteria that are pathogenic to humans. The plants growing in soil contaminated with chemical agents are capable of sorbing and accumulating the exogenous chemical substances. Such plants, when eaten, impact negatively on humans and animal organisms.

In Russia one metric or measure for quantifying the hazard posed by soil contamination is the establishment of maximum permissible concentration (MPC) values for various contaminants. Concentrations below these values would be deemed acceptable and thus would result in minimal consequences to humans and biota, while concentrations in excess of them would require remedial action.

The goal of the project is experimental substantiation of maximum allowable soil contamination after chemical terrorist acts.

It is planned to use isopropyl methylphosphonofluoridate (sarin or GB) as a model chemical contaminator, as it presents an extremely high hazard and has already been used in a terrorist act.

The proposed project will evaluate the cumulative effects on soil contaminated with sarin. The transport (migration) of the contaminant to the atmospheric and to ground water will also be studied. A variety of generic or representative soils, based on blends of the principal constituents (sand, silt, clay and loam) and represented by distinct particle size distributions, will be used in the investigation. This will permit the development of models that could be applied to a wide variety of soil types worldwide.

In addition, the interaction of sarin with soil microorganisms will be studied, as these can lead to suppression of microbocenosis and the appearance of new soil bacteria pathogenic for humans. In this aspect of the research, forest black humus earth will be used, along with the standard soil compositions, as it contains the highest level of soil microbial flora of all soil types.

Also, it is planned to evaluate the impact of sarin on the growth and development of higher plant root systems that are capable of sorbing and accumulating the exogenous chemical substances. Such plants, when eaten, impact negatively on humans and animal organisms.

The available data of open scientific literature and RIHTOP’s own material on this problem will form the basis of the studies. Gaps in data will be filled by the experimental research described in this proposal. It is planned to use the well-known Russian system of mathematical modeling for algorithm of developing of the of maximum allowable soil contamination after chemical terrorist acts.

Expected results. The algorithm and methodological recommendations for determination of maximum allowable sarin contamination in basic types of soil taking into account their main functions.

The proposed duration of the project is three years.

RIHTOP experts have the required expertise and experience for working with chemical warfare agents, appropriate for this project. RIHTOP also has the capability to work with lethal chemical agents, such as sarin, both legally (through licenses) and safely in its laboratories.


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