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Soil Pollution

Last updated date: 20th Apr 2024
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Define Soil Pollution?

Soil pollution is defined as the presence of toxic chemicals (pollutants or contaminants) in the soil, in very high concentrations to pose a risk to human health and the ecosystem. Or in simple words Alteration in the natural soil due to human activities is termed Soil Pollution. For example, exposure to soil containing high concentrations of benzene can increase the risk of soil pollution diseases like contracting leukemia. 

Soil Contamination

All the soils contain compounds that are harmful to human beings and other living organisms. However, the concentration of such substances in unpolluted soil is so low that they do not pose any threat to the surroundings but when the concentration of such toxic substances becomes high enough to cause damage to living organisms, the soil is said to be contaminated.

Soil contamination can occur because of human activities or because of natural processes. However, mostly it is due to human activities. It occurs due to many different activities such as overuse of pesticides the soil will lose its fertility and the presence of excess chemicals will increase the acidity or alkalinity of soil and hence degrading the quality of the soil.

Types of Soil ​Pollution

  • Agriculture soil pollution is caused due to the excessive use of pesticides and insecticides.

  • Soil Pollution by industrial discharges of chemicals from mining and manufacturing of goods.

  • Solid waste soil pollution/ Poor management or inefficient disposal of waste.

  • Soil Pollution due to urban activities. etc

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Soil Pollution Causes

Industrial Pollution

The discharge of industrial waste into soils can result in soil pollution.  In India, as mining and manufacturing activities are increasing rapidly, soil degradation is also increasing. The extraction of minerals from the earth is responsible for affecting soil fertility. Whether it is iron ore or coal, the by-products are contaminated, and they are disposed of in a manner that is not considered safe. As a result, the industrial waste stays on the soil surface for a long duration and makes it unsuitable for further use.

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Agricultural Activities

The use of insecticides and pesticides for a long period can cause soil pollution. Repetitive use can cause insects and pests to become resistant to it. Instead of killing pests and insects, it degrades the soil quality. They are full of chemicals that are not produced in nature and cannot be broken down by them. As a result, they seep into the ground after they mix with water and slowly reduce the fertility of the soil. Plants absorb many of these pesticides, and after decomposition cause soil pollution.

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Pesticides are substances used to kill or control pests, such as weeds, insects, and parasitic fungi. In agriculture, they come in different types:

  • Herbicides: Used to kill or control weeds and unwanted plants.

  • Insecticides: Used to kill insects.

  • Fungicides: Used to kill parasitic fungi or inhibit their growth.

However, when pesticides unintentionally spread into the environment, known as 'pesticide drift,' it raises environmental concerns like water and soil pollution. Some soil contaminants from pesticides include:

  • Herbicides: Triazines, Carbamates, Amides, Phenoxyalkyl acids, Aliphatic acids.

  • Insecticides: Organophosphates, Chlorinated hydrocarbons, Arsenic-containing compounds, Pyrethrum.

  • Fungicides: Mercury-containing compounds, Thiocarbamates, Copper sulfate.

These chemicals pose health risks to humans, leading to diseases like central nervous system disorders, immune system diseases, cancer, and birth defects.

Waste Disposal

Disposal of plastics and other solid waste is a serious issue that causes soil pollution, disposal of electrical items such as batteries causes an adverse effect on the soil due to the presence of harmful chemicals. Eg: lithium present in batteries can cause the leaching of soil. Human waste such as urine, faeces, diapers, etc is dumped directly in the land. It causes both soil and water pollution.

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Acid Rain

It is caused when pollutants present in the air mix with the rain and fall back on the ground. The polluted water could dissolve away some of the essential nutrients found in soil and change the structure of the soil thus making it unsuitable for agriculture.

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Heavy Metals

The presence of heavy metals (such as lead and mercury) in very high concentrations present in soils can cause them to become highly toxic for human beings.

Toxic Metals that Cause Soil Pollution













Nuclear Waste

It can also lead to soil degradation.

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Oil Spills

Oil leaks can happen during the storage or transport of chemicals, the chemicals present in the fuel deteriorates the quality of soil and make them unsuitable for further cultivation, chemicals can also enter into the groundwater through the soil, and hence it will make water undrinkable.

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Effects of Soil Pollution

Soil pollution affects the health of humans, plants, and animals. Crops or plants grown on such contaminated soil absorb toxic material from the soil and will decrease the agricultural output of the land. When animals or human beings consume these crops or plants the toxic material can pass into their body.

Long-term consumption of these crops may cause chronic diseases that are untreatable. children are usually more susceptible to exposure to contaminants because they come in close contact with the soil by playing in the ground, So, it is always important to test the quality of the soil before allowing kids to play there, especially in an industrialized area.

Effects of Soil Pollution on Human Health

The contamination of soil has a major consequence on human health. Crops and plants that are grown on polluted soil absorb most of the pollution and then pass them to humans. Living, working, or playing in contaminated soil can lead to respiratory diseases, skin diseases, and other health problems. Diseases caused by soil pollution include Irritation of the skin and the eyes, Headaches, nausea, vomiting, Coughing, pain in the chest, and wheezing.

Effects on Plants 

In such a short period of time, plants are unable to adapt to the soil change chemistry. Fungi and bacteria found in the soil that bind them together start to decline, which creates an additional problem in soil erosion. Regular use of chemical fertilizers, inorganic fertilizers, pesticides will decrease the fertility of the soil and alter the structure of soil. This will lead to a decrease in soil quality and poor quality of crops. The fertility of the soil diminishes slowly, making land unsuitable for agriculture and any local vegetation to survive.

Effects on the Ecosystem

The soil is an important habitat for different types of microorganisms, birds, and insects. Thus, change in the chemistry of soil can negatively impact the lives of living organisms and can result in the gradual death of many organisms. 

Possible Solutions to Soil Pollution

Soil pollution is a complex issue that must be addressed. It is important that we all understand the importance of soil to our survival. The earlier we recognize the problem, the simpler it will be to solve the problem of soil pollution. It's a complicated problem that requires everyone's participation, from individuals to the government. A few methods for reducing soil pollution are listed below.

Reduced Use of Chemical Fertilizers

Chemical fertilizers are more damaging than helpful. While the right quantity can help the soil become more fertile, too much might potentially poison it. Chemical fertilizers in excess could harm the soil in a variety of ways. It has the ability to affect the soil's pH values.

Reforestation and Afforestation Should be Promoted

Soil erosion, which is produced by deforestation, is one of the major sources of soil pollution. With an ever-increasing population, it is only logical that mankind requires more and more room to expand their civilization. It is frequently accomplished at the expense of soil health. Reforestation of a deforested area should be encouraged to prevent this from happening.

Recycle and Reuse Products

These measures not only reduce waste output, but they also reduce soil pollution. Plastic now makes up a significant portion of the waste flow. The great majority of these wastes are buried in landfills.

Promote Use of Natural Manure

One of the best sources of nutrients for the soil is natural manure. It's 100% natural and safe. It restores the soil's critical nutrients and improves its overall health. It doesn't produce any toxic by-products that could harm the soil or the environment.


Soil is a finite and irreplaceable resource that sustains life on Earth. Addressing soil pollution is not just an environmental imperative, but a critical step towards ensuring a healthy future for ourselves and future generations. By embracing sustainable practices, promoting responsible waste management, and raising awareness, we can protect this vital resource and ensure that the soil beneath our feet continues to nurture life for years to come.

Remember, even small actions can make a big difference. Let's all work together to keep our soil healthy and safeguard the future of our planet.

FAQs on Soil Pollution

1. What are some preventive measures of soil pollution?

Some preventive measures of soil pollution are:

  • Land farming should be promoted for waste treatment.

  • Recycling of waste before disposal.

  • Proper maintenance of the sewage system.

  • Use plants to extract heavy metals.

  • Use of Natural Manure/ Use of organic fertilizers instead of chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

  • The proper disposal method of household and industrial waste.

  • Reforestation and Afforestation Should be Promoted.

2. Give some examples of the contaminants, which pollute soils?

A few of the common soil pollutants are given as Arsenic, Lead, Mercury, Nickel, Zinc and Copper.

3. Give a key cause of soil pollution?

Improper disposal of industrial waste - Due to inappropriate management and disposal of toxic wastes generated during industrial activity, industries are thought to be one of the primary causes of soil pollution.

4. What are the health implications of soil pollution?

Contaminants contained in polluted soil can enter the human body through a variety of routes, including the nose, mouth, and skin. Short-term health effects from exposure to such soils include headaches, coughing, chest pain, nausea, and skin/eye irritation. Long-term exposure to contaminated soil can cause central nervous system depression and damage to essential organs (such as the liver). Human cancer has also been related to long-term exposure to contaminated soils.