Further description:-  Sources 

Glossary Entry
a substance which is located in, on or under the land and has the potential to cause harm to human health, 
water resources or the wider environment. The contamination derives from point or diffuse sources.
Level 3: Sources

Further information

The proper identification of sources is important because regulations that are aimed at contamination of the environment consist of preventive and remediation actions. For preventive actions, the source should be identifiable and allow that regulations are issued that affect the magnitude of the source directly. For atmospheric pollution of the soil and water resources this is often not possible, as only the source of pollution of the atmosphere can be dealt with, not the atmosphere itself.

Furthermore, it is important to properly classify a source as being diffuse, because such a classification automatically implies that regulations issued to control this source will be generic: each separate release point will not be considered separately in the regulations (except additional measures, which are then formulated in a generic way, to attain a situation specific implementation). An example is that the strength of the source can be adjusted by e.g. regulations for the entire agricultural sector, but the geographically widespread release of volatile organic compounds derived from e.g. dry cleaning, which is found in soil under each city, can not be regulated: each source has to be found and remediated using site specific methods.

Diffuse pollution sources for the soil and ground water resources are (i) atmosphere, (ii) agriculture, (iii) traffic and transport, (iv) industry and mining, waste (-water) treatment, and other facilities that discharge directly into surface water, or onto soil.

A special case for diffuse sources is the release, in situ, of e.g. arsenic into aquifers, where As is derived from the parent material itself. Ignored is the contribution of hormones from e.g. wildlife.


Key publications


Douben, P.E.T., (ed.), Pollution risk assessment and management, Ecol. & Environ. Tox. Series, Wiley, Chichester, UK, 464 pp., 1998

Adriano, D.C., et al. (eds.), Contamination of groundwaters, Adv. Env. Sci., Science Reviews, 525 pp., 1994

Van der Meer, H.G., (ed.), Animal manure on grassland and fodder crops, Fertilizer or waste?, Martinus Nijhoff Publ., Dordrecht, 1987

De Haan, F.A.M., and M.I. Visser, (eds.), Soil Pollution and Soil Protection, Int. Training Centre, Wageningen University, 1996

Kiss, A., (ed.), Manual of European Environmental Law, Grotius Publ., 1993


Papers related atmospheric sources


Lee, R. G. M., Green, N. J. L., Lohmann, R. and Jones, K. C. (1999). Seasonal, anthropogenic, air mass and meteorological influences on the atmospheric concentrations of PCDD/Fs: evidence for the importance of diffuse combustion sources.  Environ. Sci. Technol. 33: 2864-2871.

Sweetman, A. J. and Jones, K. C. (2000). Declining PCB concentrations in the UK atmosphere: evidence and possible causes.  Environ. Sci. Technol. 34: 863-869.

Lohmann, R., Northcott, G. L. and Jones, K. C. (2000).  Assessing the significance of domestic burning to the atmospheric concentrations of PCDD/Fs, co-planar PCBs and PAHs. Environ. Sci. Technol. 34: 2892-2899.

Breivik, K., Sweetman, A., Pacyna, J. M. and Jones, K. C. (2002). Towards a global historical emission inventory for selected PCB congeners – a mass balance approach. I. Global production and consumption. Sci. Total Environ. 290: 181-198.

Breivik, K., Sweetman, A., Pacyna, J. M. and Jones, K. C. (2002). Towards a global historical emission inventory for selected PCB congeners – a mass balance approach. II. Emissions. Sci. Total Environ. 290: 199-224.

Prevedouros, K., Brorstrom-Lunden, E., Halsall, C. J., Jones, K. C., Lee, R. G. M. and Sweetman, A. J. (2004). Seasonal and long-term trends in atmospheric PAH concentrations: evidence and implications. Environ. Pollut. 128: 17-27.

Jaward, F. M., Farrar, N. J., Harner, T., Sweetman, A. J. and Jones, K. C. (2004). Passive air sampling of PCBs, PBDEs and organochlorine pesticides across Europe. Environ. Sci. Technol. 38: 34-41.

Lee, R. G. M., Thomas, G. O and Jones, K. C. (2004). PBDEs in the atmosphere of western Europe. Environ. Sci. Technol. 38: 699-706.

Farrar, N. J., Smith, K. E. C., Lee, R. G. M., Thomas, G. O., Sweetman, A. J. and Jones, K. C. (2004). Atmospheric emissions of PBDEs and other persistent organic pollutants (POPs) during a major anthropogenic combustion event. Environ. Sci. Technol. 38: 1681-1685.

Jaward, F. M., Meijer, S. M., Steinnes, E., Thomas, G. O. and Jones, K. C. (2004). Further studies on the latitudinal and temporal trends of persistent organic pollutants in Norwegian and UK background air. Environ. Sci. Technol. 38: 2523-2530.

Jaward, F. M., Farrar, N., Harner, T., Sweetman, A. and Jones, K. C. (2004). Passive air sampling of PAHs and PCNs across Europe. Environ. Toxicol. Chem. 23:

Prevedouros, K., Jones, K. C. and Sweetman, A. J. Estimation of production, consumption and emissions of pentabrominated diphenyl ether (PeBDE) in Europe: 1970-2000. Environ. Sci. Technol. 38:


Policy and regulations

See Diffuse Pollution

Decision support/management tools

Decision support and management tools have been developed in The Netherlands with respect to regulating the application of manure and organic fertilizer in agriculture (MINAS, Ministries of VROM & LNV; RIVM). In view of a recent (2003) decision of the Commission of the European Union, further use of these tools, aimed at quantifying the inputs/outputs of minerals at the farm level, has become questionable. Nevertheless, the MINAS system provides an excellent tool to monitor and adjust flows of fertilizers at the farm level.

For assessing the fate of contaminants, in the context of the need for further action and possible remediation, the code CSOIL has been developed (Van Hall Institute, Groningen, NL).


Country information/library

Information on sources and the Dutch approach to regulate these can be found on:






Who does what?

See diffuse sources




No Author information available