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Soil pollution definition


Types of pollution are land pollution, noise pollution, water pollution, soil pollution, light pollution and air pollution.

In most cases, soil pollution is considered land or underwater pollution, but it's not true instead, they have a majority in creating soil pollution. Let's under exactly what soil pollution is.

Soil pollution

As we know, 70% of the earth is covered with water, and 30% has a land surface covered with soil. Soil is considered a loose surface material covering most of the land and is present at the upper layer of the earth's crust. It consists of organic and inorganic substances (chemicals, minerals living organisms, gas, water and nutrients) that support the life of plants.

Soil pollution definition

It makes agriculture possible to feed living beings as soil help in the production of food for both humans and animals. Human health is supported by healthy soil as it plays a key role in the carbon and nutrient cycle. Healthy soil produces medicines, fibre, food, and biomass and retains and filters water.

Soil is the uppermost layer of the earth which can be easily washed away in the oceans, valleys, steam, river or far away land or polluted by various substances and this process is called soil pollution. This pollution affects soil fertility, indirectly negatively impacting human health (via the consumption of unhealthy food or water).

The FOA (Food and Agriculture Organization) states that one centimetre of healthy topsoil formation takes hundreds of thousands of years but can be lost in a year due to erosion, and left soil gets polluted by various means.

"Soil pollution is a condition of soil where it get contaminated by harmful pollutants or contamination of soil due to the presence of hazardous chemicals like radioactive metals, toxic solvents, heavy materials and nanomaterial pollutants in soil."

Soil pollution types:

Soil pollution definition

Environmentally soil pollution is classified into two types:

  1. Naturally: Some pollutants naturally contaminate the soil due to the differential deposition of soil by the atmosphere. Another method is transporting soil pollutants with rainwater.
  2. Anthropogenic (caused by a human): Pollution of soil caused by various human activities such as demolition of the old building, use of lead-based paints in construction activities, diesel and gasoline spills during transport, metal casting factories, underground mining, urbanized area wastewater (which is not properly disposed of), improper disposal of toxic industrial waste.

We can categorize soil pollution based on the toxins caused by this pollution, such as:

  1. Radiation pollution: Pollution happens due to radioactive material in the soil. Rather some of the radiation is already present in the soil, but most are artificial, and it doesn't come under nuclear testing or nuclear plants. Even phone production and highly radioactive element can cause radiation to leak into the soil, causing radiation pollution.
  2. Chemical pollution: Chemicals are used in most factories that leach into the soil from factories and are another source of contamination. When chemicals are released, they get deposited into the soil, raising their toxic levels.
  3. Oil pollution: As we know, oil and natural gas are extracted from the ground (earth) or the soil, but this oil and gas can spill into the soil that, cause pollution. Oil pollution can reduce the water consistency in the soil. For example, Dubai and other oil countries need more fresh drinking water.
Soil pollution definition

Main components of soil pollution

This pollution is due to various components called 'xenobiotics' (a Greek origin word). 'Xenos' means foreigner, and 'Bio' means life therefore, xenobiotics are things artificially added by humans to the soil, not naturally present, and these are the following: heavy metals, Hydrocarbons, mineral oil and others.

  • Heavy metals: The presence of high metals in high concentrations in the soil harms humans as they increase the soil's toxic level, which harms the crops produced. From medical waste, harmful chemical pesticides, agricultural waste, garbage, industrial waste etc., dangerous toxins are released and added to the soil. Some heavy metals are Zinc, mercury, Copper, nickel, lead, thallium, antinomy, arsenic, chromium etc.
  • Hydrocarbons: Compounds made of hydrogen and carbon, which presence can cause severe health issues to human beings like cardiovascular disease or cancer. Some of the hydrocarbons are phenalene, naphthalene, anthracene etc.

Other sources of pollution

  • Urban waste: It combines domestic and commercial waste, including sludge, household, and sewage. The deep urban waste consists of solid waste like fibres, metallic cans, fuel, leaves, street sweeping, abandoned vehicles, and other discarded manufactured products. Industrial waste is separated from ten urban waste at the time of disposing of because industrial waste is dangerous to dispose of (degrade). People throw garbage waste wherever they like, which causes pollution.
  • Industrial wastes: Industrial waste disposal is a major problem today because of major products prepared by industries. There are different kinds of industries like chemical factories, chemical fertilizer factories, iron & steel, pulp and paper mills, drugs, coal & mineral mining, distillers, petroleum, engineering, sugar, glass, cement, textiles industries etc. that discharge the pollutants which affect and alter the chemical and biological properties of soil. When these pollutants mix with the soil, they indirectly enter the human food chain (from soil or water) and disturb the biochemical process. Consumption of chemicals by humans indirectly leads to a serious effect on them (cause life taking diseases and changes in hormones too). Chemical waste and dirty water from the industries directly go to water bodies or on land, increasing the soil's infertility.
  • Biological wastes: Biological wastes refer to the living organism excreta collected daily. A large amount of human, animal and bird excreta received by soil constitutes a major source of land pollution. Heavy digested sludge and manure application on soil or field can cause damage to plants sometimes or in a few years.
  • Radioactive agents: Radioactive pollutants result from the radioactive substances experiment in nuclear testing laboratories and industries that discharge the nuclear dust radioactive wastes. This radioactive substance penetrates the soil and raises the level of soil pollution. Examples of radioactive pollutants are:-
    • Use highly explosive hydrogen elements and cosmic radiations (reaction of the neutron and proton in which nitrogen (N-15) produces C-14.
    • Some radioactive elements like nuclides of Uranium, isotopes of Potassium, carbon (C-14), radium and thorium are found in rock, water, soil and air.
    • Waste from nuclear reactors contains Lathanum-140, Barium 140, Nuclides Sr-90 with a life of 28 years(half-life), Iodine-131 and Cs-137 with a half-life of 30 years. All radionuclide emits gamma radiation lying on the soil.
    • Some other radioactive wastes like nuclides of Cesium-137, Strontium90, Iodine-129 and injurious isotopes of iron. Strontium is harmful and dangerous for living beings as it is deposited in tissues and bones instead of calcium.
  • Agricultural pollutants: Agriculture is the necessity of humans to feed themselves. Therefore, it is done to a large extent, and due to this, it pollutes the soil to a large extent. To increase crop production and fertility of the soil, with advanced technology, a huge amount of herbicides, fertilizers, pesticides, and weedicides are added that increase the chemical consistency in the soil. Some inorganic chemicals, slurry, manure, farm waste and debris damage the soil.
    • Agrochemicals: To increase productivity, farmers use chemical fertilizers and pesticides on the crops, but overuse of these chemicals disrupt the balance of organism in the soil, and their composition too pollute the soil. This process prompts harmful bacteria growth and reduces the natural consistency of soil that, degrade it.
    • Pesticides: To inhibit the growth of pests, chemical substances named pesticides are used in agriculture, which include insecticides, fungicides and herbicides.
Insecticides Organophosphates, Pyrethrum, Arsenic containing compounds, chlorinated hydrocarbon
Fungicides Copper sulphate, a mercury-containing compound, thiocarbamates
Herbicides Amides, Aliphatic acids, triazines, carbamates, phenoxy alkyl acids.
  • Wildfires: An unplanned, uncontrollable and unpredictable fire in an area of combustible vegetation. Wildfires burn the whole ground across the landscape and affect its fertility too. While little fire increases soil fertility, massive fire breakouts reduce vegetation cover and increase the pre-condition for increasing soil erosion rates.
  • Deforestation is one of the major reasons for soil erosion because plants and tree roots bind the soil (inner and outer layers of soil), but their absence loosens the soil. Cutting and the absence of trees lead to soil erosion because, without trees, water and air sweep the land. Removing trees at a large scale to fulfil human needs is called deforestation, which can make the land barren and raise soil erosion and pollution. Without trees, the land remains barren and polluted.

Effects on various categories

Soil pollution can affect everything on earth, including humans, animals, plants and the environment. It has some negative effects, such as:

On humans

Soil pollution has short-term o long-term effects on human health. It has a heap of negative effects on human health, including:

  • Hormonal changes
  • Skin infections
  • Reproductive problems
  • Neurological problem
  • Effect on the nervous system
  • Effect on the respiratory system
  • Food and water supplies get contaminated
  • Cause of cancer
  • Increase in death
  • Headache
  • Vomiting and nausea
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Pain I chest
  • Wheezing
  • Coughing
  • Irritation of eyes and skin

On animals and plants

It has a negative and positive effect on plants and animals, too, such as:

  • Glyphosate in the environment affects plants positively in these ways:
    1. increase photosynthesis
    2. water absorption
    3. nutrient intake
    4. size and weight
    5. make plants more tolerant of environmental stress
  • The glyphosate environment affects plants negatively in these ways:
    1. Stunned the growth
    2. Delay the flowering
    3. Delay the fruiting
    4. Make plants more susceptible to disease

On environment

It has bags of negative effects on the environment and raises endless environmental problems such as:

  • Land pollution
  • Air pollution
  • Loss and erosion of soil fertility
  • Animals and plants' death
  • Less quality of life of plants and animals
  • Groundwater and surface water supplies get contaminated
  • Increase global warming

Precautions or control measures

We can control soil pollution by taking some control measures or precautions such as:

  1. By a variety of farm practices and forestry, including planting trees on barren slopes, contour cultivation, deforestation and substituting chemical manures with animal waste.
  2. Unwanted material or hazardous material should be dumped properly. Dumping human and animal waste is a big challenge, and dealing with open dumping techniques is used & for solid waste disposal, controlled tipping is followed. The surface formed from this can be used for housing or sports field.
  3. Must focus on producing natural fertilizers as these don't include toxic chemicals. Natural fertilizers can be made from organic waste, including animal dung and agricultural waste used to prepare compost manure rather them throwing them in the garbage and polluting the soil.
  4. There should be a ban on toxic chemicals and pesticides fatal to plants and animals, such as BHC, DDT etc. Improper and unmanaged ways of disposal of radioactive waste and nuclear explosions should be banned.
  5. Some waste is biodegradable; therefore, it should be recycled for reuse materials such as paper, organics, glasses, plastics, petroleum products and industrial effluents. Today some electronic items can be recycled and reused. The government and people adopt various projects and methods to recycle and reuse waste material.
  6. Managing and disposing waste is necessary on a large scale and can only be implemented with public help. It's not the duty of one person but needs the contribution of every individual. So, to minimize soil pollution, formal and informal public awareness programs are imparted to educate people about health hazards through environmental education.
  7. People must follow a proper hygienic routine to stay healthy and keep the environment pollution free. For this purpose, people are trained regarding sanitary habits, especially in rural areas with poorly implemented toilet facilities.

We can prevent soil degradation and cease soil pollution by educating people about the importance of a safe and clean environment, its necessities and how we can achieve a healthier planet with a pollution-free environment.

Essential steps are needed to be implemented by individuals, industries and businesses to prevent the pollution of soil and attain the fertility or growth of our planet.

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