What Causes Soil Pollution?

By Oishimaya Sen Nag on September 27 2018 in Environment

Crude oil contaminating the soil.
Crude oil contaminating the soil.

Soil pollution refers to the degradation of soil quality due to the addition of pollutants in the soil. Such pollutants can be derived from various sources, which are highlighted below.

Chemical Spills and LeaksĀ 

Accidental spills and leaks are common when chemicals are stored, transported, and used. The chemicals released into the ground during such accidents are harmful and pollute the soil. For example, when oil is transported through pipelines from oil fields to processing plants, oil might leak through holes in the pipe and contaminate the soil in the surrounding area.

Mining Activities

Mining of minerals creates a significant volume of waste that often ends up in the surrounding land or water. Mining activities involve the crushing, grinding, and processing of raw minerals. Such processes release unused and unwanted waste into the environment. Toxic chemicals like heavy metals are often part of such waste.

Construction Activities

Construction work often releases harmful chemicals into the environment and is one of the leading causes of soil pollution in urban areas. Dust generated at sites covers the soil or pollutes the air, and the demolition of old buildings often leads to the release of toxic chemicals like asbestos that can poison the soil.

Use of Chemicals in Agriculture

A wide range of pesticides, insecticides, fertilizers, and herbicides are used in modern agriculture. In an attempt to produce higher yields, farmers across the world are compromising the health of the environment. Use of such chemicals pollutes farmland soil and agricultural runoff pollutes nearby water bodies. Many chemicals used in farming are harmful to the health of human, animals and plant life. In fact, many of these chemicals have been linked to the development of cancer, kidney disorders, congenital diseases, and neurological disorders.

Cracked Paint Chips from Buildings

As paint on building walls and facades grow old, it can develop cracks and create paint chips that get into the soil. The chemicals contained in paint chips can be hazardous to the environment. If the paint is lead-based, lead will accumulate in the soil in toxic concentrations.

Sewage Leaks

Leaks in sewage lines can lead to the contamination of soil. Such soil becomes highly toxic, as many pathogens can multiply in the polluted soil and eventually enter the human body through the consumption of plants grown in the affected area. If the vegetables grown on such soil are not washed thoroughly before consumption, chances of contracting infectious diseases are increased.

Irresponsible Waste Disposal

Improper and irresponsible disposal of waste pollutes the soil. Sometimes waste is dumped illegally in areas where disposal is not permitted. For example, factories may not treat waste according to proper procedures and release untreated waste matter into the surrounding land or water.

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