The term “soil pollution” is described as having harmful chemical compounds (pollutants or pollutants) within the soil at sufficient amounts to pose the health of humans and the ecological system.
For contaminants naturally present on soil, even if their concentrations aren’t high enough to be considered a threat to the soil, it is believed to occur when the contaminants present in soil are higher than the amounts generally in the soil.
Let’s know more about soil pollution effects in this article.
Soil Pollution Causes
Regardless of whether they are polluted or not, all soils are home to diverse substances (contaminants) found naturally. They comprise metals, inorganic and organic salts, ions (e.g., carbonates, sulfates, phosphates, and Nitrates), and many organic substances (such as proteins, lipids, DNA, fatty acids, and DNA hydrocarbons, PAHs alcohols, and others).
These compounds are formed mainly by soil microbial activity and the decay of organisms (e.g., plants, animals, or animals). Also, they have been absorbed in surface water bodies and water that flows from the shallows of the soil.
In addition, different compounds are introduced into the soil through the atmosphere, like by precipitation water and through wind activity or other forms of soil disturbances.
Polluted soil is created if soil pollutants exceed their natural levels (what is found naturally in different soils). The two primary reasons why soil pollution is created that cause soil pollution: human-caused (artificial) factors and organic causes.
- Natural Pollutants
- Man-Made Pollutants
There are many causes of soil contamination that can be found daily or even every minute. For convenience, the causes are usually divided into human-caused (anthropogenic) causes and natural causes.
Human-caused (or man-made) contamination of soil can be found through a variety of processes. Some are intentional (industrial), as well as some that are accidental.
- Leaks and spills that happen in the course of storage, transportation, or the use for chemical products (e.g., spills and leaks of diesel and gasoline in gasoline station);
- Foundry processes and the manufacturing process that require furnaces or other processes that result in the dispersion of pollutants in the environment. It is a process that involves crushing and processing raw materials, like heavy metals, which emit harmful substances;
- Activities in agriculture involve the distribution of herbicides, pesticides or fertilizers, and insecticides.
- Activities of transportation emitting harmful emissions from vehicles
- Chemical waste disposal either accidentally or deliberately, for example, illegal dumping.
- The disposal of garbage in landfills is not a good idea since the products can leach into groundwater or produce polluted vapours.
- Chips of cracked paint fall off walls of buildings
Other than the rare instances where a natural accumulation of chemicals causes soil pollution, Natural processes can be a factor in releasing toxic chemicals by humans into the soil, ultimately diminishing or elevating the toxicity and contamination to the soil.
This could be because of the complex soil ecosystem, which includes various chemical compounds and natural elements that interact with the released pollutant.
Natural processes that cause soil pollution
- A natural accumulation of substances in soils due to imbalances among soil pollution effects and leakage with rainwater (e.g., the accumulation and concentration of perchlorate in arid soils.)
- Nature-based production in soils under certain conditions (e.g., natural formation of perchlorate within the soil with an acid source, a metallic object, and making use of the energy produced by a storm)
Types of Soil Pollutants
Pollutants and contaminants cause soil pollution. The significant pollutants of soil come from biological agents as well as some human activities. Soil contamination is a result of soil contaminants that pollute the soil.
Human actions that cause soil pollution include agricultural practices that infest the crops using pesticides to the industrial or urban wastes or radioactive emissions that poison soil with harmful chemicals.
- Biological Agents
- Agricultural Practices
- Radioactive Pollutants
- Urban Waste
- Industrial Waste
Examples of Soil Contaminants
There are a variety of contaminants that can contaminate the soil. Examples of the most frequent and problematic soil contaminants are listed below.
- Lead (Pb)
- Mercury (Hg)
- Arsenic (As)
- Copper (Cu)
- Zinc (Zn)
- Nickel (Ni)
- Pahs (Polyaromatic Hydrocarbons)
Effects of Soil Pollution
Pollution from soil affects animals, plants, and humans alike. Though everyone is affected by soil contamination, effects can be different based on the state of health, age, and other factors, such as the type of contaminant or pollutant consumed or inhaled.
Children are typically more vulnerable to contaminants because they have close contact with the soil when playing on the ground. When combined with lower thresholds for catching diseases that can trigger higher risk than adults, you need to check the quality of your soil before allowing your children to play in it, mainly where you live in an industrialized zone.
Diseases Caused by Soil Pollution
Humans are affected by soil pollution via the inhalation of gaseous emissions by soils that are moving upwards or inhaling material that has been affected and carried by wind due to the many human activities in the soil.
- The soil pollution could result in a myriad of health issues beginning with fatigue, headaches, nausea, and skin rashes, as well as eye irritation.
- It may result in more severe issues like neuromuscular blockage, liver and kidney damage, and various types of cancer.
Soil functions as a natural filter for contaminants by accumulating and occasionally concentrating contaminants found in soils from various sources. Tiny amounts of contaminants build up in the ground and – based on the conditions of the environment (including the soil type) and the degradation of the pollutant released – could get to a higher level and pollute the soil.
If soils are contaminated, the fruits and vegetables grown in your garden can also be affected by the contamination. This is because most soil contaminants get absorbed from the plants, along with water, each time they eat.
So, it’s recommended to test the soil before attempting to plant any food items. This is especially crucial when your garden is close to an industrial or mining zone or within a mile of an airport or harbour, landfill or foundry.