Soil Pollution – Causes, Effects and What To Do About It?

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Soil pollution, soil contamination

Soil pollution has a major impact on the entire planet and it will play a large role in the well-being of future generations. The best we can do now is implement measures to slow down the pollution and clean up polluted areas where possible. Doing nothing will only allow the pollution to progress to a point where our soil becomes the cause of major health epidemics. Furthermore, the human population is expected to grow by two billion in the next 40 years. With that being the case, it is of utmost importance that the soil remains in tact in order to feed the population. If measures to curb soil pollution aren’t introduced, it’s possible that the land will not be able to support the entire population, and many will be forced to resort to synthetic food sources, which themselves can cause a number of diseases.

What Are The Causes of Soil Pollution and What To Do About It?

We often hear about air pollution. Images of smoke puffing out of train engines and up into the sky are embedded in our minds. The gas emissions from our cars are monitored while many large cities have smog alerts. In the midst of the conversations on pollution, one of the more commonly overlooked side effects of our daily activities is soil pollution. One of the reasons soil pollution isn’t discussed as much as air pollution is that, for many, it’s not as easily observable. We see smoke coming out of exhaust pipes, but we hardly get to witness toxins entering the soil. As a result, it doesn’t make the same impression even though it’s just as harmful.

Soil pollution, also known as soil contamination, is caused by man-made, harmful chemicals penetrating the earth and causing deterioration. There are many health risks associated with soil pollution, through direct contact with the soil or from air contaminants. Whether it’s in industrialized countries where soil pollution has regulations, or in developing countries with no such capabilities, the matter of soil pollution is a major problem. Knowing the causes and the potential solutions can help to mitigate some of the risks.

agricultural land pollution

Causes of Soil Pollution

Agriculture

The use of chemicals as part of agriculture is at record levels. Whether it’s to increase the production of crops or restrict the growth of harmful fungi, chemicals such as herbicides and pesticides are an integral part of our agricultural process. These chemicals, as well-intended as they are, are not naturally produced and cannot be broken down in nature. As a result, they end up seeping into the ground, stripping away the soil’s fertility and harming the ecosystems. In other cases, plants absorb these chemicals and eventually die off.

industrial waste

Industry

The biggest culprit in soil pollution is industrial activity. Even as laws are passed and precautions are taken, mining and manufacturing continues to be a major cause of soil pollution. Industrial waste, whether as part of the job, improper disposal, or due to accidents, wreaks havoc on the soil.

human waste

Human Waste

We also damage the soil as part of our everyday lives. It can be through improper disposal of toxic waste that ends up in landfills or bodies of water, or human waste that goes through our sewer system and ends up in our soil. Either way, humans play a major role in causing soil pollution.

deforestation

Deforestation

Deforestation has an indirect effect on soil pollution. As trees are cut down, the exposed soil is easily carried away during soil erosion. With the soil taken away, the land is left unable to support vegetation.

acid rain

Acid Rain

Acid rain occurs when pollutants in the air such as sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide mix with rain. It has been proven to negatively impact soil by dissolving important nutrients and even changing the soil’s structure.

Effects of Soil Pollution

The effects of soil pollution are numerous. With damaged soil, the most drastic impact is that life on Earth may become unsustainable. Plants won’t grow and the animal and human lives that depend on them will vanish. Aside from eventual death, soil pollution has several other consequences. Some of these include:

  • Development of human diseases from contact with polluted soil or water
  • Climate change leads to a disruption in ecosystems that causes harm to certain animal species
  • Decreased soil fertility and yield leads to a lack of nutrients and an increase in diseases
effects of soil pollution

What To Do About Soil Pollution?

Although laws and regulations have been put in place, there are additional steps that we can take to curb soil pollution.

Address Farming Practices

proper farming practices

The effects of pesticides and other chemicals for farming purposes is well-documented. What is less discussed is the impact of overcropping and overgrazing. These practices should be avoided as they play a part in expediting soil erosion

Recycle

recycle

The old adage remains true – recycle, reduce, reuse. Develop the habit of using paper, plastic, aluminum and glass products. Reduce the use of products that are not recyclable. Reuse items such as containers rather than throwing them in the trash.

Limit Pesticides

limit pesticides

While pesticides and fertilizers have positive benefits, their use should be limited because of their impact on the soil. In addition, you should make it a point to use more environmentally-friendly substances when appropriate.

Reforestation

reforestatiion

Regulations against cutting down trees are great. However, reforestation can also have a tremendous effect. Where appropriate, new trees should be planted where others have been cut down to help curb soil erosion.

Bioremediation

bioremediation

Bioremediation is a technique that calls for adding microorganisms into the soil to break down contaminants. This is a safe and environmentally-friendly way to clean up polluted soil.

Opt for Biodegradable

biodegradable

Try to use biodegradable products as much as possible. Even if they’re thrown away, they will break down naturally and not cause any toxic chemicals to go into the soil.

Use Soil Additives

soil additives

Certain organic matter from composting, such as lime, can be used to adjust the pH levels of the soil and limit soil pollution.

Soil Washing

soil washing

Also known as soil separation, soil washing is a water-based process for scrubbing contaminants off soils. It’s been proven to be effective on soils contaminated by heavy metals and organic contaminants.

Soil pollution has a major impact on the entire planet and it will play a large role in the well-being of future generations. The best we can do now is implement measures to slow down the pollution and clean up polluted areas where possible. Doing nothing will only allow the pollution to progress to a point where our soil becomes the cause of major health epidemics. Furthermore, the human population is expected to grow by two billion in the next 40 years. With that being the case, it is of utmost importance that the soil remains in tact in order to feed the population. If measures to curb soil pollution aren’t introduced, it’s possible that the land will not be able to support the entire population, and many will be forced to resort to synthetic food sources, which themselves can cause a number of diseases.