Short Note on Soil Pollution

Soil is produced from the rocks by the process of weathering of the earth’s crusts. With the rise of buildings and roads, one part of the Earth that we see is the soil. Soil Pollution is gradually becoming a major challenge that we need to overcome to establish a healthy environment. Soil contamination occurs either because of human activities or because of natural phenomena. However, it is mostly due to human activities. Through this article, you will get to know what is the definition, causes, effects and control measures of soil pollution? 

Soil Pollution Definition 

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 increases the risk of soil pollution diseases like contracting leukaemia. 

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 low that they do not pose any threat to the surrounding 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 ​Pllution

  • Agriculture soil pollution 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 Diagram

Soil Pollution Causes Effects and Control Measures

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 reduces the fertility of the soil. Plants absorb many of these pesticides, and after decomposition cause soil pollution.

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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.

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.

Nuclear Waste: It can also lead to soil degradation.

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.

Effects of Soil Pollution

Soil pollution affects the health of humans, plants, and animals. Crops or plants grown on such contaminated soil absorbs toxic material from the soil and will decrease the agricultural output of a 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 non-treatable. 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. 

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

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 that pollute soils.

Soil pollution is the contamination of soil with huge concentrations of toxic substances.

Some examples of contaminants are mercury, Copper, Zinc, Nickel, Arsenic, Lead, etc.