The increasing development of industries, resulting in a large volume of mining, smelting, and combustion wastes, and intense agricultural activities, due to demand for food and energy, have caused environmental hazards for food quality and ecosystems. This is a review on the contamination of the soil–groundwater–crop system and a potential reduction of the contamination by a gradual shift towards green economy within the European Union and on a worldwide scale. Available mineralogical and geochemical features from contaminated Neogene basins have shown a diversity in the contamination sources for soil and groundwater, and highlighted the need to define the contamination sources, hot spots, degree/extent of contamination, and provide ways to restrict the transfer of heavy metals/metalloids into the food chain, without the reduction of the agricultural and industrial production. Among harmful elements for human health and ecosystems, the contamination of groundwater (thousands of μg/L Cr(VI)) by industrial activities in many European countries is of particular attention. Although Cr(VI) can be reduced to Cr(III) and be completely attenuated in nature under appropriate pH and Eh conditions, the contamination by Cr(VI) of coastal groundwater affected by the intrusion of seawater often remains at the hundreds μg/L level. A positive trend between B and Cr(VI) may provide insights on the role of the borate [B(OH)4
ions, a potential buffer, on the stability of Cr(VI) in coastal groundwater. Efforts are needed towards reducing toxic metal(loids) from the industrial wastewaters prior to their discharge into receptors, as well as the transformation of hazardous mining/industrial wastes to new products and applications to the optimization of agricultural management strategies.
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