Jack Lort

Project title: Measurement and modelling human dermal bioavailability of potentially harmful organic soil contaminants.

Where based: I am enrolled at the University of Nottingham School of Geography, but most of my work is carried out at the British Geological Survey in Keyworth. I also have a CASE partnership with WSP/Parsons Brinckerhoff, a world leading environmental consultancy company


As an undergraduate I studied BSc Environmental Earth Science at Aberystwyth University graduating with first class hons in 2016. I then continued at Aberystwyth University, studying MSc Environmental Monitoring and Analysis, with the course focusing on environmental geochemistry, contaminated land and remediation strategies, whilst also improving my skills in field work, laboratory work and data analysis and interpretation. During my time at Aberystwyth University, my interest in the link between contaminated land and human health grew, with this project offering me the chance to contribute to a better understanding of the dermal absorption of organic contaminants from soils.

Project description:

There is around 66,000 hectares of Brownfield land in the UK, with the UK government wishing for 60% of new builds to be on Brownfield sites. Brownfield land can be contaminated by previous activities, such as former gasworks sites, where persistent organic pollutants (POP) such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) can be created through incomplete combustion of organic materials. Many PAHs are mutagenic and carcinogenic, and consequently a risk to human health. While there have been studies on dermal bioavailability of pure compounds, the effect of soil physico-chemical properties on dermal absorption of contaminants is poorly understood resulting in overly conservative risk assessments. As a result, the aims of this project are:

  • To optimise an in vitro method to quantify the human dermal bioavailability of PAHs in soil
  • To validate the results using publicly available in vivo study data
  • To use measured physico-chemical soil properties to develop, test and evaluate numerical models to predict dermal bioavailability, explaining which factors might be responsible for the release of contaminants from soil into and through human skin.