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Soil Pollution

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Soil Pollution refers to the process of contamination of soil which is caused because of high concentrations of toxic substances. Human activities are the primary reasons for soil pollution and land degradation.

Soil Pollution

Let’s learn about soil pollution in detail, including its causes and effects.

Soil Pollution Definition

Soil Pollution is defined as the contamination of soil with huge concentration of toxic substances which make it difficulty for any activity.

It refers to the processes which causes contamination of soil as well as degradation of quality of soil and convert soil into inhabitable nature for micro and macro organisms which live in the soil. Soil contamination or soil pollution due to both natural as well as human activities.

Types of Soil Pollution

Causes of Soil Pollution are mainly classified into two categories

  • Naturally Caused Soil Pollution
  • Anthropogenic Soil Pollution

Natural Pollution of Soil

Pollution caused by soil is a very rare phenomenon, this happens when toxic materials are added to the soil through a volcanic eruption and pollutants are also added to the soil by water.

Anthropogenic Soil Pollution

Anthropogenic Soil Pollution is soil pollution which is caused by human activity. So, almost all cases of soil pollution are anthropogenic in nature.


Anthropogenic Soil Pollution

Let’s learn about the causes of soil pollution through human activities :

  • Industrial Activities and Chemical Contamination:
    • Industrial activities, including mining and manufacturing, have significantly contributed to soil contamination.
    • Waste products from mineral extraction processes are often left scattered across the earth’s surface, polluting the soil.
    • Improper disposal of industrial waste results in long-term soil pollution, rendering it unsuitable for agriculture.
  • Agricultural Practices (Use of Pesticide/Herbicide):
    • Increased use of synthetic insecticides and fertilizers in agriculture has led to chemical contamination of soil.
    • These chemicals cannot be decomposed naturally, affecting soil fertility and making it prone to erosion.
    • Plants absorb these chemicals, contaminating the soil as they decompose and become part of it.
  • Improper Waste Disposal and Landfills:
    • Inadequate garbage disposal, including human waste and plastic pollution, contributes significantly to soil contamination.
    • Human waste in landfills releases toxins and chemicals into the soil, polluting it.
    • Plastic waste, despite its numerous uses, remains a major contributor to soil pollution due to its persistence in the environment.
  • Accidental Oil Spills:
    • Oil spills coat the soil, clogging its pores and reducing soil aeration and water infiltration.
    • Microorganisms essential for soil health are harmed, and soil pH is altered, affecting crop yield.
  • Acid Rain:
    • Acid rain, caused by pollutants mixing with water in the atmosphere, dissolves important nutrients in the soil.
    • Nutrient depletion due to acid rain limits crop growth and leads to barren landscapes.
  • Mining Activities:
    • Mining activities can contaminate soil through excavation, waste disposal, and acid mine drainage.
    • Excavation disturbs ecosystems and removes topsoil, while waste and tailings contain harmful substances.
    • Acid mine drainage, acidic water resulting from mining, further contaminates soil and hampers plant growth.

Soil Pollution Causes

Most hazardous pollutants that contaminate soil are called xenobiotics. They are substances that are not naturally found in nature and are synthesized artificially by human beings. ‘Xenobiotic’ is derived from the Greek word ‘Xenos’ meaning foreigner, and ‘Bios’ meaning life.

Soil Pollution Dughnut Chart

Pollutants which contaminate the soil

Xenobiotic compounds encompass various pollutants, including:

  • Heavy Metals: Such as lead and mercury, when present in soil at abnormal concentrations, pose significant health risks to humans through food contamination, potentially causing diseases like cancer. Elevated levels of other metals, like arsenic and cadmium, are also considered toxic.
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs): Organic compounds containing carbon and hydrogen atoms, with multiple aromatic rings in their chemical structures. Exposure to PAHs, like naphthalene and anthracene, has been linked to cancer and cardiovascular diseases.
  • Industrial Waste: Discharge from industrial activities introduces pollutants into soil, including dioxins from pesticide production and waste incineration, chlorinated solvents, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and plasticizers.
  • Pesticides and Herbicides: Used in agriculture to control pests, these toxic substances, including herbicides (for weed control), insecticides, and fungicides, can lead to soil pollution. Overuse of pesticides can result in various health issues, including central nervous system diseases and cancer.
  • Petroleum Hydrocarbons (PAHs): PAHs, like naphthalene and anthracene, enter soil through coal processing, vehicle emissions, burning plastics, and petroleum extraction, causing cancer and cardiovascular diseases.
  • Industrial Chemicals and Waste: Various industries discharge waste materials into soil, such as chlorinated solvents, PCBs, dioxins, and plasticizers, contributing to soil pollution. Petroleum refining is a major source of industrial waste.

Effects of Soil Pollution

Soil pollution causes a broad spectrum of negative consequences that affect plants, animals, humans, and the ecosystem as a whole. Since children are more susceptible to diseases, polluted soil poses a greater threat to them. Let’s discuss some important effects of soil pollution.

Soil Pollution Effects
  • Effect on Health of Human Beings:
    • Soil contamination poses significant health risks as crops grown in polluted soil can absorb contaminants, leading to health issues upon consumption.
    • Prolonged exposure to contaminated soil can affect genetic makeup, causing congenital diseases and chronic health problems.
    • Soil contamination can also sicken animals and lead to food contamination, contributing to widespread malnutrition and barren lands.
  • Effect on Growth of Plants:
    • Soil pollution disrupts the balance of ecosystems, affecting plant adaptation and soil stability.
    • Microorganisms crucial for soil structure are depleted due to contamination, leading to soil erosion.
  • Reduced Soil Fertility:
    • Soil contamination diminishes crop quantity and quality, threatening global food security.
    • Toxic chemicals in contaminated soil decrease soil fertility, resulting in lower crop yields with reduced nutritional value and potential health risks.
  • Harmful Dust:
    • Emissions of noxious gases from landfills contribute to soil pollution, posing serious health risks to nearby residents.
    • Unpleasant odors from contaminated soil create discomfort for people living nearby.
  • Changes in Soil Structure:
    • Excessive use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers kills soil organisms, altering soil structure and disrupting ecosystems.
    • pH fluctuations in soil hinder plant growth and functionality, leading to soil degradation over time.
  • Contamination of Underground Water Table:
    • Soil contamination affects the underground water table, allowing toxins to seep into water sources.
    • Prolonged use of contaminated water from wells and tube wells can lead to health issues such as arsenic poisoning and food contamination.

Soil Pollution Control Measures

Soil Pollution can be controlled or prevented by following the practices as given below:

  • Sustainable Farming Practices:
    • Natural excrement serves as a harmless and beneficial source of nutrients for soil health.
    • Chemical fertilizers, while enhancing soil fertility, can damage soil health with excess use.
    • Overuse of chemical fertilizers disrupts soil pH levels and kills beneficial soil microorganisms.
    • Surface runoff from soils with excess chemical fertilizers can lead to water pollution, affecting aquatic life.
  • Sustainable Forest Management:
    • Forest preservation is crucial for preventing soil degradation.
    • Sustainable forestry practices are essential to maintain soil health and prevent erosion.
    • With growing populations, there’s a need for more land, often at the expense of soil health.
    • Reforestation and afforestation efforts help in soil conservation by preventing erosion and maintaining groundwater levels.
  • Proper Waste Management:
    • Effective disposal of industrial and residential waste is vital to reduce land contamination.
    • Proper disposal of hazardous waste is crucial to prevent soil pollution.
    • Strategies such as recycling batteries, consuming sustainable foods, composting, and proper medication disposal help manage waste efficiently.
  • Recycling and the “3 R’s” Rule:
    • Reduce the use of non-biodegradable items to minimize plastic pollution and soil contamination.
    • Reusing and recycling items help reduce the amount of waste sent to landfills, thereby reducing soil contamination.
    • Plastics take a long time to decompose in landfills, releasing harmful chemicals that contribute to soil contamination.

Also, Read :

FAQs on Soil Pollution

What is Soil Pollution?

The removal of beneficial chemicals from the soil or the addition of detrimental compounds to it is referred to as soil pollution.

What Causes Soil Pollution?

Main contributors for soil pollution include chemical pesticides, fertilizers in high concentration, uncontrolled waste disposal, careless waste pillage etc.

What are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Soil Pollution?

The advantages of soil pollution include increase in yield due to high utilization of fertilizers and waste disposal in better way, and disadvantages include reduced crop quality, contaminated groundwater etc.

What are the main effects of soil pollution?

The main effects of soil pollution would include lose of soil fertility, which leads to problems

How To Prevent Soil Pollution and Soil Erosion?

Soil pollution and soil erosion could be prevented by planting more and more trees.

How can we Avoid Soil Pollution?

Reducing, reusing, and recycling trash, converting to organic choices, cleaner industrial production methods, and green manuring are all ways to minimize soil contamination.

Write some Examples of the Contaminants that Pollute Soils.

Some examples that contribute to soil pollution are:

  • Lead
  • Arsenic
  • Nickel
  • Mercury
  • Copper
  • Zinc
  • Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons

What Contributes Highest to the Soil Pollution?

Improper disposal of industrial waste and garbage disposal contributes highest to the soil pollution.

Last Updated : 07 Feb, 2024
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