Soil Pollution: Definition, Causes, And Effects

Soil contamination or soil pollution as part of land degradation is caused by the presence of xenobiotics (human-made) chemicals or other alterations in the natural soil environment. It is typically caused by industrial activity, agricultural chemicals, or improper disposal of waste.

What is Soil Pollution?

Soil pollution is defined as the presence of toxic chemicals (pollutants or contaminants) in the soil in high enough concentrations to pose a risk to human health and the ecosystem. Contaminants that occur naturally in the soil are considered to be a risk of soil contamination when contaminants level in the soil exceed the levels that should be naturally present.

Common contaminants in urban soils are pesticides, petroleum products, radon, asbestos, lead, chromated copper arsenate, and creosote. In urban areas, soil pollution is mainly caused by human activities. If the soil is contaminated with these substances, it can harm the native environment.

We tend to look up at the sky when we talk about pollution, but this problem is not confined to our skies. The soil on which our fruits and vegetables grow also suffers from its consequences, the effects of which affect us directly, for example from the foods mentioned above. It’s time to take care of what’s under our feet!

The Causes of Soil Pollution

Soil pollution is mostly caused by mindless human activities such as:

  • Industrial waste. Industries are by far the worst polluters of the soil with all the chemicals they release into the environment in liquid or solid form.
  • Deforestation. By cutting down trees, the soil remains exposed to the elements so that they can be easily removed by soil erosion. This leaves land barren and unable to support vegetation.
  • Excessive use of fertilizers and pesticides. The increased demand for food has forced farmers to use fertilizers and pesticides, which only release toxins into the soil and kill beneficial microorganisms that are important for plant growth.
  • Garbage pollution. Garbage that cannot be recycled is carelessly disposed of. Not only is this a thorn in the side, but it also pollutes the country. Some of this waste can literally take thousands of years to decompose!

In urban areas, soil contamination is largely caused by human activities. Some examples are manufacturing, industrial dumping, land development, local waste disposal, and excessive pesticide or fertilizer use.

What is Soil Pollution

Effects of soil pollution

Soil pollution also causes the loss of soil and natural nutrients present in it, hindering plant’s ability to thrive in such soil, which would further result in soil erosion and disturbing the balance of flora and fauna residing in the soil.

The most important effects of soil pollution according to IPBES and the FAO are indicated below:

  • Damage to health. Soil pollutants enter our bodies through the food chain and cause disease. In addition, the proliferation of antibiotics in the environment increases the resistance of pathogens to these drugs.
  • Poorer harvests. Soil pollutants agents jeopardise world food security by reducing the quantity and quality of crops.
  • Climate change. In the first decade of the 21st century, soil degradation released between 3.6 and 4.4 billion tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere.
  • Water and air pollution. Soil degradation affects the quality of air and water, particularly in developing countries.
  • Population displacement. Soil degradation and climate change will have driven between 50 and 700 million people to emigrate by 2050.
  • Species extinction. Soil contamination is one of the main causes that could trigger the sixth mass extinction event in history, the population of land vertebrates fell by 38 % between 1970 and 2012.
  • Desertification. The world’s driest areas could have 45% of the world’s population by 2050, while the size of the world’s wetlands has decreased by 87% over the past three centuries.
  • Economic impact. Global economic losses caused by soil degradation are expected to exceed 10 % of the world’s annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Solutions To Reduce Soil Pollution

Soil degradation is a complex problem that requires governments, institutions, communities and individuals to take joint action. The following are just some of the things we can do to improve his health:

  • Eat sustainable foods, properly recycle batteries, produce homemade compost, and dispose of medicines in approved locations.
  • Promote a greener model for industries, farming, and stock breeding, among others.
  • Improvement of urban and transport planning as well as wastewater treatment.
  • Improve mining waste management, restore the landscape and preserve the topsoil.
  • Involvement of local communities and indigenous peoples in the conception, implementation, and evaluation of sustainable land and soil management.

FAQs.

What is Soil pollution?

Soil contamination or soil pollution as part of land degradation is caused by the presence of xenobiotics (human-made) chemicals or other alterations in the natural soil environment. It is typically caused by industrial activity, agricultural chemicals, or improper disposal of waste.

What are the causes of Soil pollution?

In urban areas, soil contamination is largely caused by human activities. Some examples are manufacturing, industrial dumping, land development, local waste disposal, and excessive pesticide or fertilizer use.

What are the Effect of Soil Pollution?

Soil pollution increase the salinity of the soil making it unfit for vegetation, thus making it useless and barren. If some crops manage to grow under these conditions, they would be poisonous enough to cause serious health problems in people consuming them.