Soil Pollution

What Is Soil Pollution?

Soil pollution is defined as the presence of toxic chemicals (pollutants or contaminants) in soil, in high enough concentrations to pose a risk to human health and/or the ecosystem. In the case of contaminants which occur naturally in soil, even when their levels are not high enough to pose a risk, soil pollution is still said to occur if the levels of the contaminants in soil exceed the levels that should naturally be present.



Soil Pollution Causes

All soils, whether polluted or unpolluted, contain a variety of compounds (contaminants) which are naturally present. Such contaminants include metals, inorganic ions and salts (e.g. phosphates, carbonates, sulfates, nitrates), and many organic compounds (such as lipids, proteins, DNA, fatty acids, hydrocarbons, PAHs, alcohols, etc.). These compounds are mainly formed through soil microbial activity and decomposition of organisms (e.g., plants and animals). Additionally, various compounds get into the soil from the atmosphere, for instance with precipitation water, as well as by wind activity or other types of soil disturbances, and from surface water bodies and shallow groundwater flowing through the soil. When the amounts of soil contaminants exceed natural levels (what is naturally present in various soils), pollution is generated. There are two main causes through which soil pollution is generated: anthropogenic (man-made) causes and natural causes.


Causes of Soil Contamination

Soil pollution is mostly caused by mindless human activities such as:

Industrial waste

Industries are by far the worst polluters of the soil with all the chemicals they release into the environment be it in liquid or solid form.


Clearing of trees leaves soil exposed to the elements so they are easily carried away by soil erosion. This leaves land barren and incapable of supporting vegetation.

Excessive use of fertilizers and pesticides

The increased demand for food has forced farmers to use fertilizers and pesticides that release nothing but toxins into the soil, killing useful microorganisms that are important in plant growth.

Garbage pollution

Garbage that cannot be recycled is disposed of carelessly and this is not only an eyesore but pollutes the land. Some of this waste can literally take thousands of years to decompose!

Effects of Soil Contamination

Climate change

Deforestation causes a change in the rain cycle and this is a contributing factor to global warming and loss of ecosystems.

Loss of soil fertility

With the rapid growth of human population, we need all the food we can get. Chemicals used on soils reduce soil fertility so food production drops.


How to Reduce Soil Contamination


Most countries have policies that require its citizens to plant more trees where one has been cut. This is an effective measure to curb soil erosion. Governments should also take punitive action against those who cut down trees without a care in the world.

Controlled farming practices

Too much of anything is dangerous. The same concept applies to farming practices in that they should be carried out in moderation. Practices such as over cropping and overgrazing should be avoided since they increase soil erosion.

Bio remediation

This is the introduction of microorganisms into the soil that break down contaminants. This is a perfectly environmental friendly approach since it allows nature to take its course thus restoring balance.

Reduce, Recycle, and Reuse

Items that can be used again should not be disposed of; things made of paper, glass, aluminum and the like should be recycled; lastly, where excesses such as the use of polythene paper can be avoided, then, by all means, reduce their use.

Use biodegradable products

Where possible, opt to use biodegradable products such as cartons for packaging; if they were to be disposed of, they would easily be broken down to become part of the soil.

Reduce the use of pesticides and fertilizers

Pesticides and fertilizers are major contributors to soil contamination so cutting down on their usage could do a world of good to the soil.

We have one earth and if we completely destroy its surface, we will be the first to starve or poison ourselves. Redeeming land to its original state is nearly an impossible task. It’ll require altering its properties which can be avoided if only we put our land into its proper and responsible use.

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