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Brownfield or previously developed land is everywhere. Nearly everyone has visited or lived near an area that was once used for industrial purposes, making it unsuitable for redevelopment. Besides being an eye sore, brownfield is also known to be detrimental to the health and wellbeing of communities who live near it, but often the financial costs are too great for it to be restored and developed.

As the global population rises and land for agriculture and housing increases in demand, redeveloping brownfield may hold a solution to some of these challenges, but how do we do it? Some technologies are available, while others are in the making, but how can they be used sustainably? Read the rest of this entry »

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Brownfield or previously used land often has levels of contamination that make it unsuitable for development. It also has known risks for the physical health of people and the environment. In some cases it may not even be highly contaminated but because it requires remediation, little is done with it. But what effects does brownfield have on people’s health outside of people coming into close physical contact with environmental contaminants? Does the mere presence of brownfield lead to poorer health outcomes?

Many communities live near brownfield spaces (there are 62,000 acres of brownfield land in England alone), which may have serious consequences for their health according to a new study from Regeneration Brownfield Land Using Sustainable Technologies (ROBUST) project based at IHRR and in collaboration with the Wolfson Research Institute. Research led by Professor Clare Bambra, Dr Karen Johnson and Dr Steve Robertson finds that people who live close to brownfields have worse health compared to those that do not, or only live near small amounts of brownfield.

Professor Clare Bambra, lead author of the study said:  “Our study shows that local authorities and central government need to prioritise the remediation and regeneration of brownfield land to protect the health of communities.”

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The problem of brownfield land is universal.  Countries throughout the world have problems with contaminants  present in soil that prevent people from using the land.  Large demand exists to improve soil health and to regenerate brownfield land for present and future generations.  While brownfield land can clearly affect the physical health of people, plants and animals it may also affect people’s mental health or sense of well-being.

Land previously developed for industry or other uses may affect public health in a variety of different ways that does not appear well understood at this time.  IHRR’s research project ROBUST (Regenerating Brownfield Land Using Sustainable Technologies) at Durham University is investigating how to restore brownfield land sustainably, but is also researching how brownfield land affects the well-being of communities that live around it.  Recently, the project has begun its first public field trial testing a new technology for improving soil health that uses recycled minerals to improve the natural defences of the soil against contamination.

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This podcast from ROBUST features Dr Karen Johnson, one of the leaders of the project.  In this instalment, Karen introduces different aspects of the project including how to remediate brownfield land using recycled minerals known as manganese oxides left from the water treatment industry and other sources.


This is part three of the ROBUST podcast series.  Parts one and two are available here.

As some readers of this blog are aware, IHRR’s ROBUST project is researching how to use sustainable technologies to regenerate brownfield land contaminated with industrial wastes.  This is the second part of the ROBUST podcast series presented by Dr Steve Robertson, a researcher at Durham University and Research Associate on ROBUST.  For those interested in how different kinds of brownfield sites can be regenerated, perhaps in your own community, have a listen to Steve’s introduction on how sites are chosen for redevelopment.


The project Regenerating Brownfield Land Using Sustainable Technologies (ROBUST) in IHRR is researching efficient, environmentally sustainable methods to restore land that was previously used for industry that may have high or low concentrations of contaminants in the soil.

In Part 1 of the ROBUST podcast series available on the project’s website, Dr Steve Robertson, an associate researcher on ROBUST, explains what is brownfield land and how it can be redeveloped for future use.


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