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Soil Pollution

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Soil Pollution is the process of degrading the land due to contamination or the presence of human waste. Soil contamination is a complicated issue. Everything from cigarette stubs, and littering to the overuse of chemical fertilizers contributes to the degradation of soil health. Industry, mining, military operations, garbage including technical waste and wastewater management, farming, stock breeding, and urban and transportation development are among the most prevalent causes of soil contamination.

What is Soil Pollution?

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

Soil Pollution is a serious environmental concern as many problems that humans face are directly linked to it. Soil Pollution makes the soil less fertile which results in a lack of agricultural activities. Heavy metals present in the soil when reach our body through food cause many diseases such as cancer and others. The image given below shows the scientist exploring the toxic land.

Soil Pollution

What are the Pollutants that Contaminate Soil?

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. Xenobiotics compounds include:


Pollutants which contaminate the soil

  • Heavy Metals
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons
  • Industrial and Chemical Waste
  • Pesticides

Heavy Metals

All metals are generally present in soil and when the concentration of heavy metals which include lead and mercury increases abnormally in soils it becomes a major problem for humans as they come to the human body through food and cause diseases such as cancer. Other than heavy metals if the concentration of other metals also increases in the soil it is considered toxic. Metals that are classified as soil pollutants are:

Toxic Metals Cause Soil Pollution













Higher concentration of any of these metals causes serious problems for human beings. These metals originate from several sources including mining activities, agricultural activities, electronic waste, and medical waste.

Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons

Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons are organic compounds which

  1. Contain only carbons and hydrogen atoms.
  2. Contains more than one aromatic ring in their chemical structuring.

Common examples include napthalene, anthracene and exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons have been linked with cancer and also cardiovascular diseases in humans.

Industrial Waste

Industrial waste discharge in to soil results in soil pollution and some important sources include:

  1. Dioxins produced from manufacture of pesticides and incineration of waste.
  2. Chlorinated industrial solvents.
  3. Polychlorinated biphenyls.
  4. Plasticizers.

Pesticides and Herbicides

Pesticides used by farmers to remove pests from their field also causes soil pollution. They are toxic substances that are used to kill pests. Pesticides are divided into three broad categories based on their use which include:

  • Herbicides: (used to kill weeds and other unwanted plants)
  • Insecticides: (used to kill insects)
  • Fungicides: (used to kill parasitic fungi or inhibit their growth)

Pesticides are used to help farmers but overuse of them can cause serious implications. Some examples of pesticides include:

  • Herbicides
    • Triazines
    • Amides
    • Phenoxy alkyl acids
    • Aliphatic acids
    • Carbamates
  • Insecticides
    • Organophosphates
    • Pyrethrum
    • Chlorinated hydrocarbons
    • Arsenic-containing compounds
  • Fungicides
    • Mercury-containing compounds
    • Thiocarbamates
    • Copper sulfate

These chemicals are harmful to humans as they cause various diseases such as diseases of the central nervous system, immune system diseases, cancer, etc.

Petroleum Hydrocarbons (PAHs)

Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (abbreviated to PAHs) are organic compounds containing carbon and hydrogen atoms only. Their chemical structures contain more than one aromatic ring.

Some examples of PAHs are

  • Naphthalene
  • Anthracene
  • Phenalene

PAHs cause various types of cancers, and they are also linked with various cardiovascular diseases. PAHs come to the soil through coal processing, emissions through vehicles, burning of plastics in landfills, cigarette smoke, and the extraction of petroleum oil.

Industrial Chemicals and Waste

Industrial waste includes waste that is discharged by various types of industries directly or indirectly into soils.  The chemical and waste materials left after processing goods in industries are released into the soil which causes soil pollution. Example of industrial waste includes:

  • Chlorinated industrial solvents
  • Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs)
  • Dioxins
  • Plasticizers

Other than these various types of industrial waste is released into the soil. Refining petroleum(crude oil) is one of the biggest contributors to industrial waste.

What are the Processes that Causes Soil Pollution?

Causes of Soil Pollution are mainly classified into two categories

  • Naturally Caused Soil Pollution
  • Anthropogenic Soil Pollution (caused by Human Activity)

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. The causes of soil pollution through human activities are listed below.


Anthropogenic Soil Pollution

  • Industrial Activities and Chemical Contamination
  • Agricultural Practices (Use of Pesticide/Herbicide)
  • Improper Waste Disposal and Landfills
  • Accidental Oil Spills
  • Acid Rain
  • Mining Activities 

Let’s learn about the factors which cause soil pollution in detail as follows:

Industrial Activities and Chemical Contamination

Industrial activity has been the most significant contributor to the problem of soil contamination during the last century. It has resulted in a rise in mining and manufacturing. The majority of enterprises rely on mineral extraction from the ground. The product they acquire as a result of this process is accompanied by a large amount of trash. This trash is strewn throughout the earth’s surface. Whether it’s iron ore or coal, the by-products are polluted, and they’re not properly disposed of. As a result, industrial waste remains on the soil surface for a long period, rendering it unfit for human consumption.

Agricultural Practices (Use of Pesticide/Herbicide)

Since technical development supplied us with sophisticated insecticides and fertilizers, the use of chemicals in agriculture has increased dramatically. These insecticides and fertilizers include compounds that aren’t found in nature and can’t be decomposed by decomposers. As a consequence, they seep into the ground, mix with water, and gradually deplete the soil’s fertility. Few other substances alter the soil’s composition and make it more susceptible to erosion by water and air. Because plants are the major providers of food, their absorption has a significant impact on the food chain. As these plants decompose and become part of the soil, they pollute the environment.

Improper Waste Disposal and Landfills

In the current scenario, there is a developing worry over legitimate garbage removal. Other than modern waste, human waste likewise causes the defilement of dirt. Each human amounts to soil contamination by delivering individual side effects such as peeing and defecation. While quite a bit of it moves into the sewer framework, there is likewise a huge sum that is unloaded straightforwardly into landfills as diapers. Indeed, even the sewer framework closes at the landfill, where the natural waste dirties the dirt and water. As our bodies are loaded with poisons and synthetic compounds when human squander is arranged into landfills, it causes soil contamination. Plastic waste or put into basic words ‘Plastic contamination’ extraordinarily adds to making the dirt sick. However, it has various utilizations, its tossed-way culture has turned into a significant cerebral pain for the whole world. Plastic sacks and food coverings have a life expectancy of only minutes to hours, yet they might continue in the climate for many years.

Accidental Oil Spills

Oil spills have a significant impact on the physical characteristics of the soil. The porosity of the soil is crucial. To keep one’s health in order to cultivate. When oil spills unintentionally, it creates a coating on the earth and plugs the pores. Soil aeration and water infiltration are reduced as a result. Microorganisms that are responsible for preserving soil quality are harmed to a great extent. Oils raise the pH of the soil, reducing crop yield.

Acid Rain

All land-based life is dependent on the soil as its only source of riches. And when it loses its structure and composition, the ecosystem as a whole suffers. Pollutants in the air, such as nitrogen oxides and sulphur dioxide, mix with water in the atmosphere and fall as acid rain. The water from this downpour is acidic, as the name implies. Many important nutrients are dissolved when this enters the soil. A lack of nutrients in the soil causes limited crop development, resulting in a desolate landscape. Barren terrain has no purpose other than trash disposal.

Mining Activities 

Mining can pollute soil through excavation, waste, and acid mine drainage. Excavation removes topsoil and disturbs ecosystems, while waste and tailings contain harmful substances that can contaminate the soil. Acid mine drainage is acidic water that can contaminate soil and make it unsuitable for plant growth.

Read more,

How can Soil Pollution be Controlled?

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

Sustainable Farming Practices

Natural excrement is innocuous and perhaps the best wellspring of supplements for the dirt. It adds fundamental supplements to the dirt and reestablishes its well-being. It contains no hurtful side effects that could hurt the dirt or the climate in any capacity. While substance composts upgrade the richness of the dirt, an overabundance of it really harms the dirt. It accomplishes more mischief than anything. The abundance of synthetic composts upsets the pH levels of the dirt. It kills the great microorganisms present in the dirt. The surface overflows from such soils likewise cause water contamination influencing sea-going plants and creatures.

Practical Forest Management

Protection of the backwoods is critical to tackling soil contamination. Without trees, the land becomes dry and begins to dissolve. Hence, feasible ranger service or logging is urgent to save the dirt from contamination. It is very clear that with the steadily sprouting populace, mankind needs increasingly more space to extend. This is frequently accomplished at the expense of the strength of the dirt. Reforestation of a deforested region is being advanced.  Afforestation ought to be supported on fruitless grounds. The underlying foundations of the plants tie the dirt particles together and even catch great microorganisms in the dirt. It likewise guarantees the support of the underground water table.

Proper Waste Management 

The proper disposal of trash, whether industrial or residential, is one of the most effective strategies to reduce land contamination. This is especially true when it comes to the disposal of poisonous and hazardous waste. Some of the ways we may dispose of the trash efficiently include properly recycling batteries, eating sustainable foods, making homemade compost, and disposing of medicines in authorized locations.

Recycling and the “3 R’s” Rule

Non-biodegradable items must be used less often. This will reduce plastic pollution and, in turn, reduce land contamination. As a result, it is critical to reuse and recycle as much as possible. Plastic now accounts for a considerable percentage of the solid trash created. These wastes are usually buried in landfills to get rid of them.

Plastics slowly decompose in landfills, releasing hazardous chemicals. These chemicals are extremely detrimental to soil health and constitute a significant cause of soil contamination.

The 3R rule says reduce, reuse, and recycle, reusing and recycling items reduces the amount of garbage placed in landfills, resulting in reduced soil contamination.

Effects of Soil Pollution

Soil pollution harbours 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. Some important effects of soil pollution are detailed in this subsection. The image given below shows the plastic and other pollutants added into landfill which causes soil pollution.

Consequences of Soil Pollution

Effect on Health of Humans Beings

Soil, being the justification behind our endurance, its tainting has significant well-being results. Yields and plants are developed on dirtied soil ingest a significant part of the contamination and afterward give these to us. Drawn-out openness to such soil can influence the hereditary makeup of the body, along these lines causing intrinsic diseases and ongoing medical issues. It can likewise nauseate the animals to a significant degree and cause food contamination. Soil contamination additionally prompts inescapable starvations and fruitless terrains if the plants can’t fill in them.

Effect on Growth of Plants

The equilibrium of an environment gets influenced because of the broad tainting of the dirt. Most plants can’t adjust to the adjustment of soil science in an exceptionally brief timeframe. Microorganisms like growths and microbes that tight spot the dirt together decrease. This makes an extra issue of soil disintegration.

Diminished Soil Fertility

Soil contamination decreases the sum and nature of harvests. This risks the world’s food security. The poisonous synthetic substances present in the dirt decline soil’s fruitfulness which thusly prompts an abatement in soil yield. The tainted soil is then used to create foods grown from the ground, which need quality supplements. These may likewise contain some harmful substances and represent a danger to the strength of individuals burning through them.

Harmful Dust 

The emanation of harmful and foul gases from landfills dirties the dirt. This represents a genuine medical problem for individuals. Furthermore, the horrendous smell likewise makes burdens individuals living close by.

Changes in Soil Structure

Broad utilization of pesticides and synthetic manures prompts the demise of many soil microorganisms (e.g., nightcrawlers). This outcome in the modification of the dirt construction. Aside from this, it could likewise drive different hunters to move to different spots looking for food. An increment or abatement of the pH content in the dirt incredibly hampers plant development and usefulness. At the appointed time of time, the dirt becomes desolate.

Harming of Underground Water Table

The underground water table is additionally harmed by soil contamination. Since this water is put away underneath the layers of the dirt, the poisons in the dirt could without much of a stretch permeate gradually and consistently into the water table. The water we overcome wells and cylinder wells are this dirtied water. Over-delayed utilization of such harmful water causes a lot of medical problems. Throughout some stretch of time, infections like arsenic harming, food contamination, and others are caused because of the utilization of this poisonous underground water.

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

Explain how Soil Pollution and Soil Erosion could be prevented.

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.

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Last Updated : 10 Nov, 2023
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