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Soil pollution: Causes, effects and control

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Van Sangyan Vol. 3, No. 1, Issue: Januaryr,
Januaryr 2016

Soil pollution: Causes, effects and control

(On world soil day,
day December 5, 2015)
Dr. Rajesh Kumar Mishra, Dr. Naseer Mohammad and Dr. N. Roychoudhury
Tropical Forest Research Institute
P.O. RFRC, Mandla Road, Jabalpur (M.P.) – 482 021. India

World Soil Day was established in 2002 provide water and nutrients, and whether
we farm the plants directly or consume
animals that feed on the plants, this means
that we don't eat without soil. Having said
that, it is not hard to see that a) it is
possible to have a sea-based
based diet and b) it
is possible to grow our food
hydroponically. In those cases, it is
possible to reduce the importance of soil.
However, we still have the other reasons
that soil is fundamental:
undamental: it is required for
by the International Union of Soil Sciences trees. I don't think I need to go into the
(IUSS) to celebrate the importance of soil importance of trees for shade, animal
and its vital contributions to human health habitat, building materials.
and safety. On December 20, 2013, the Soil is a vital part of the natural
68th UN General Assembly recognized environment. It is just as important as
December 5th, h, 2014 as World Soil Day plants, animals, rocks, landforms, lochsloch
and 2015 as the International Year of and rivers. It influences the distribution of
Soils. This official recognition of these plant species and provides a habitat for a
events will emphasize the importance of wide range of organisms. It controls the
soils beyond the soil science community. flow of water and chemical substances
It took two years for the leadership of between the atmosphere and the earth, and
Thailand and the FAO Global Soil acts as both a source and store for gases
Partnership (GSP) to get these dates (like
ike oxygen and carbon dioxide) in the
approved by the UN, but their hard work atmosphere. Soils not only reflect natural
prevailed and soil has garnered the processes but also record human activities
attention it has so long deserved. World both at present and in the past. They are
Soil Day is annually held on December 5 therefore part of our cultural heritage. The
to highlight soil's importance on Earth. We modification of soils for agriculture and
need soil for basic survival - food and the burial of archaeological remains are
energy. It is linked with the United good examples of this.
Nations' (UN) Year of Soil. Soil, together with the plant and animal
World Soil Day serves as a reminder to all life it supports, the rock on which it
of us that we owe our existence to the soil. develops its position in the landscape and
As we face mounting global production, the climate it experiences, form an
climate and sustainability challenges
llenges. amazingly intricate natural system – more
Soil is fundamental to human life on Earth. powerful and complex than any machine
Most plants require a soil substrate to that man has created. Soil may look still
 Published by Tropical Forest Research Institute, Jabalpur, MP, India 1
Van Sangyan Vol. 3, No. 1, Issue: Januaryr, 2016

and lifeless, but this impression couldn’t Radioactive wastes from mining and
be further from the truth. It is constantly nuclear processes may reach the soil via
changing and developing through time. water or as ‘fall-out’. From the soil they
Soil is always responding to changes in reach the plants and then into the grazing
environmental factors, along with the animals (livestock) from where ultimately
influences of man and land use. Some reach man through milk and meat etc.
changes in the soil will be of short resulting in retarded and abnormal growth
duration and reversible, others will be a of man. Human and animal excreta used as
permanent feature of soil organic manure to promote crop yield, pol-
Soil pollution is the reduction in the lute the soil by contaminating the soil and
productivity of soil due to the presence of vegetable crops with the pathogens that
soil pollutants. Soil pollutants have an may be present in the excreta.
adverse effect on the physical chemical Nitrification, which is the process of
and biological properties of the soil and forming soluble nitrates from the elemen-
reduce its productivity. Pesticides, tal atmospheric nitrogen or from originally
fertilizers, organic manure, chemicals, harmless organic materials actually
radioactive wastes, discarded food, contribute towards water pollution when
clothes, leather goods, plastics, paper, the nitrates leach out of the soil and
bottles, tins-cans and carcasses- all accumulate to toxic levels in the water
contribute towards causing soil pollution. supply.
Chemicals like iron lead mercury, copper, Therefore, intensification of agricultural
zinc, cadmium, aluminium, cyanides, acids production by practices of irrigation
and alkalies etc. are present in industrial (causes salination), excessive fertilisers,
wastes and reach the soil either directly pesticides, insecticides etc. have created
with water or indirectly through air. (e.g. the problems of soil pollution. Soil
through acid rain). pollution can be checked by restricting the
The improper and continuous use of use of above mentioned soil pollutants,
herbicides, pesticides and fungicides to resorting to organic farming, adopting
protect the crops from pests, fungi etc. better agriculture practices etc.
alter the basic composition of the soils and Soil pollution comprises the pollution of
make the soil toxic for plant growth. soils with materials, mostly chemicals that
Organic insecticides like DDT, aldrin, are out of place or are present at
benzene hex chloride etc. are used against concentrations higher than normal which
soil borne pests. may have adverse effects on humans or
They accumulate in the soil as they other organisms. It is difficult to define
degrade very slowly by soil and water soil pollution exactly because different
bacteria. Consequently, they have a very opinions exist on how to characterize a
deleterious effect on the plant growth pollutant; while some consider the use of
stunting their growth and reducing the pesticides acceptable if their effect does
yield and size of fruit. Their degradation not exceed the intended result, others do
products may be absorbed by the plants not consider any use of pesticides or even
from where they reach the animals and chemical fertilizers acceptable. However,
man through the food chains. soil pollution is also caused by means
other than the direct addition of xenobiotic

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Van Sangyan Vol. 3, No. 1, Issue: Januaryr, 2016

(man-made) chemicals such as agricultural pesticide DDT in the United States

runoff waters, industrial waste materials, resulted from its tendency to become more
acidic precipitates, and radioactive fallout. and more concentrated as it moved from
Both organic (those that contain carbon) soil to worms or fish, and then to birds and
and inorganic (those that don't) their eggs. This occurred as creatures
contaminants are important in soil. The higher on the food chain ingested animals
most prominent chemical groups of that were already contaminated with the
organic contaminants are fuel pesticide from eating plants and other
hydrocarbons, polynuclear aromatic lower animals. Lake Michigan, as an
hydrocarbons, polychlorinated biphenyls, example, has 2 parts per trillion (ppt) of
chlorinated aromatic compounds, DDT in the water, 14 parts per billion
detergents, and pesticides. Inorganic (ppb) in the bottom mud, 410 ppb in
species include nitrates, phosphates, and amphipods (tiny water fleas and similar
heavy metals such as cadmium, chromium creatures), 3 to 6 parts per million (ppm) in
and lead; inorganic acids; fish such as coho salmon and lake trout,
and radionuclides (radioactive substances). and as much as 99 ppm in herring gulls at
Among the sources of these contaminants the top of the food chain.
are agricultural runoffs, acidic precipitates, The ever-increasing pollution of the
industrial waste materials, and radioactive environment has been one of the greatest
fallout. concerns for science and the general public
Soil pollution can lead to water pollution if in the last fifty years. The rapid
toxic chemicals leach into groundwater, or industrialization of agriculture, expansion
if contaminated runoff reaches streams, of the chemical industry, and the need to
lakes, or oceans. Soil also naturally generate cheap forms of energy has caused
contributes to air pollution by releasing the continuous release of man-
volatile compounds into the made organic chemicals into natural
atmosphere. Nitrogen escapes ecosystems. Consequently, the
through ammonia volatilization atmosphere, bodies of water, and many
and denitrification. The decomposition of soil environments have become polluted
organic materials in soil can release sulfur by a large variety of toxic compounds.
dioxide and other sulfur compounds, Many of these compounds at high
causing acid rain. Heavy metals and other concentrations or following prolonged
potentially toxic elements are the most exposure have the potential to produce
serious soil pollutants in sewage. Sewage adverse effects in humans and other
sludge contains heavy metals and, if organisms: These include the danger of
applied repeatedly or in large amounts, the acute toxicity, mutagenesis (genetic
treated soil may accumulate heavy metals changes), carcinogenesis, and
and consequently become unable to even teratogenesis (birth defects) for humans
support plant life. and other organisms. Some of these man-
In addition, chemicals that are not water made toxic compounds are also resistant to
soluble contaminate plants that grow on physical, chemical, or biological
polluted soils, and they also tend to degradation and thus represent an
accumulate increasingly toward the top of environmental burden of considerable
the food chain. The banning of the magnitude.

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Van Sangyan Vol. 3, No. 1, Issue: Januaryr, 2016

Numerous attempts are being made to enhancement of naturally occurring

decontaminate polluted soils, including an microorganisms by artificially stimulating
array of both in situ (on-site, in the soil) their numbers and activity. The
and off-site (removal of contaminated soil microorganisms then assist in degrading
for treatment) techniques. None of these is the soil contaminants. A number of
ideal for remediating contaminated soils, environmental, chemical, and management
and often, more than one of the techniques factors affect the biodegradation of soil
may be necessary to optimize the cleanup pollutants, including moisture content, pH,
effort. temperature, the microbial community that
The most common decontamination is present, and the availability of nutrients.
method for polluted soils is to remove the Biodegradation is facilitated by aerobic
soil and deposit it in landfills or to soil conditions and soil pH in the neutral
incinerate it. These methods, however, range (between pH 5.5 to 8.0), with an
often exchange one problem for another: optimum reading occurring at
landfilling merely confines the polluted approximately pH 7, and a temperature in
soil while doing little to decontaminate it, the range of 20 to 30°C. These physical
and incineration removes toxic organic parameters can be influenced, thereby
chemicals from the soil, but subsequently promoting the microorganisms' ability to
releases them into the air, in the process degrade chemical contaminants. Of all the
causing air pollution. decontamination methods bioremediation
For the removal and recovery of heavy appears to be the least damaging and most
metals various soil washing techniques environmentally acceptable technique.
have been developed including physical The upper layer of the unsaturated zone of
methods, such as attrition scrubbing and earth is the soil. Soil is the natural body
wet-screening, and chemical methods made of mineral and organic
consisting of treatments with organic and constituents. It is produced by solid
inorganic acids, bases, salts and chelating material recycling and complex processes
agents. For example, chemicals used to of solid crust modifications. Soil offers
extract radionuclides and toxic metals shelter, habitat for numerous organisms
include hydrochloric, nitric, phosphoric and is the living medium for plants. Soil is
and citric acids, sodium carbonate and the basis for agriculture. All vegetation for
sodium hydroxide and the chelating agents human food and animal feed depend upon
EDTA and DTPA. The problem with these soil.
methods, however, is again that they Enormous quantities of waste from man-
generate secondary waste products that made products are being released into the
may require additional hazardous waste soil causing soil pollution. Polluted water
treatments. also causes soil pollution. Soil pollution is
In contrast to the previously described caused due to unhygienic habits,
methods, in situ methods are used directly agricultural practices and inappropriate
at the contamination site. In this case, soil methods of disposal of solid and liquid
does not need to be excavated, and wastes. Soil pollution is a also caused as a
therefore the chance of causing further result of atmospheric pollution.
environmental harm is minimized. In In industrialized countries, soil pollution is
situ biodegradation involves the a result of use of chemicals in agriculture,

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Van Sangyan Vol. 3, No. 1, Issue: Januaryr, 2016

dumping of waste materials, mining, Urban Activities

smelting of metals and also dumping of • Human activities can lead to soil
domestic refuse and solids, untreated pollution directly and indirectly.
sewage and industrial wastes. • Improper drainage and increase run-off
Types of Soil Pollution contaminates the nearby land areas or
Soil pollution may be any chemicals or streams.
contaminants that harm living organisms. • Improper disposal of trash breaks
Pollutants decrease soil quality and also down into the soil and it deposits in a
disturb the soil's natural composition and number of chemical and pollutants into
also lead to erosion of soil. Types of soil the soil. These may again seep into
pollution can be distinguished by the groundwater or wash away in local
source of the contaminant and its effects of water system.
the ecosystem. Types of soil pollution may • Excess waste deposition increases the
be agricultural pollution, Industrial wastes presence of bacteria in the soil.
and urban activities. • Decomposition by bacteria generates
Agricultural Pollution methane gas contributing to global
• Agricultural processes contribute to warming and poor air quality. It also
soil pollution. creates foul odors and can impact
• Fertilizers increase crop yield and also quality of life.
cause pollution that impacts soil Causes of Soil Pollution
quality. Soil Pollution is a result of many activities
• Pesticides also harm plants and by mankind which contaminate the soil.
animals by contaminating the soil. Soil pollution is often associated with
• These chemicals get deep inside the indiscriminate use of farming chemicals,
soil and poison the ground water such as pesticides, fertilizers, etc.
system. Pesticides applied to plants can also leak
• Runoff of these chemicals by rain and into the ground, leaving long-lasting
irrigation also contaminate the local effects. Read about the dangers of
water system and is deposited at other pesticides. In turn, some of the harmful
locations. chemicals found in the fertilizers (e.g.
Industrial Waste cadmium) may accumulate above their
• About 90% of oil pollution is caused toxic levels, ironically leading to the
by industrial waste products. poisoning of crops. Heavy metals can enter
• Improper disposal of waste the soil through the use of polluted water
contaminates the soil with harmful in watering crops, or through the use of
chemicals. mineral fertilizers. Faulty landfills,
• These pollutants affect plant and bursting of underground bins and seepage
animal species and local water supplies from faulty sewage systems could cause
and drinking water. the leakage of toxins into the surrounding
• Toxic fumes from the regulated soil. Acid rains caused by industrial fumes
landfills contain chemicals that can fall mixing in rain falls on the land, and could
back to the earth in the form of acid dissolve away some of the important
rain and can damage the soil profile. nutrients found in soil, as such change the

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Van Sangyan Vol. 3, No. 1, Issue: Januaryr, 2016

structure of the soil. Industrial wastes are the soil. These contaminants can block
one of the biggest soil-pollution factors. passage of water into the soil and
Iron, steel, power and chemical affects its water holding capacity.
manufacturing plants which irresponsibly • Unscientific disposal of nuclear waste
use the Earth as a dumping ground often contaminate soil and can cause
leave behind lasting effects for years to mutations.
come. Fuel leakages from automobiles, • Night soil contamination due to
which get washed by rain, can seep into improper sanitary system in villages
the nearby soil, polluting it. Deforestation can cause harmful diseases.
is a major cause for soil erosion, where Effects of soil pollution
soil particles are dislodged and carried The main reason for soil contamination is
away by water or wind. As a result, the due to the presence of anthropogenic
soil loses it structure as well as important activities. These waste products are made
nutrients found in the soil. Some the of chemicals that are not originally found
causes of soil pollution can be as follows: in nature and hence lead to soil pollution.
• Industrial effluents like harmful Soil pollution is typically caused by
gases and chemicals. industrial activity, chemicals used in
• Use of chemicals in agriculture agriculture and improper disposal of
like pesticides, fertilizers and waste. Soil contamination leads to health
insecticides. risks due to direct and indirect contact with
• Improper or ineffective soil contaminated soil. Soil pollution causes
management system. huge disturbances in the ecological
• Unfavorable irrigation practices. balance and the health of the organisms is
• Improper management and under risk. The effects of pollution on soil
maintenance of septic system. are quite disturbing and can result in huge
• Sanitary waste leakage. disturbances in the ecological balance and
• Toxic fumes from industries get mixed health of living beings on earth. Normally
with rains causing acid rains. crops cannot grow and flourish in a
• Leakages of fuel from automobiles are polluted soil. However if some crops
washed off due to rains and are manage to grow, then these crops might
deposited in the nearby soil. have absorbed the toxic chemicals in the
soil and might cause serious health
• Unhealthy waste management
problems in people consuming them.
techniques release sewage into
Sometimes the soil pollution is in the form
dumping grounds and nearby water
of increased salinity of the soil. In such a
case, the soil becomes unhealthy for
• Use of pesticides in agriculture
vegetation, and often becomes useless and
retains chemicals in the environment
barren. When soil pollution modifies the
for a long time. These chemicals also
soil structure, deaths of many beneficial
effect beneficial organisms like
soil organisms (e.g. earthworms) in the
earthworm in the soil and lead to poor
soil could take place. Other than further
soil quality.
reducing the ability of the soil to support
• Absence of proper garbage disposal
life, this occurrence could also have an
system leads to scattered garbage in
effect on the larger predators (e.g. birds)
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Van Sangyan Vol. 3, No. 1, Issue: Januaryr, 2016

and force them to move to other places, in • The most common chemicals involved
the search of food. People living near in causing soil pollution are:
polluted land tend to have higher • Petroleum hydrocarbons
incidences of migraines, nausea, fatigue, • Heavy metals
skin disorders and even miscarriages. • Pesticides
Depending on the pollutants present in the • Solvents
soil, some of the longer-term effects of soil Soil pollution happens when these
pollution include cancer, leukemia, chemicals adhere to the soil, either from
reproductive disorders, kidney and liver being directly spilled onto the soil or
damage, and central nervous system through contact with soil that has already
failure. These health problems could be a been contaminated.
result of direct poisoning by the polluted As the world becomes more industrialized,
land (e.g. children playing on land filled the long term effects of soil pollution are
with toxic waste) or indirect poisoning becoming more of a problem all over the
(e.g. eating crops grown on polluted land, world. It is thought that a full 150 million
drinking water polluted by the leaching of miles of China's farmland is contaminated.
chemicals from the polluted land to the Even when soil is not being used for food,
water supply, etc). the matter of its contamination can be a
Long term effects of soil pollution health concern. This is especially so when
The long term effects of soil pollution are that soil is found in parks, neighborhoods
many and can be difficult to deal with, or other places where people spend time.
depending on the nature of the Health effects will be different depending
contamination. on what kind of pollutant is in the soil. It
How Soil Gets Polluted can range from developmental problems,
Soil is a sort of ecosystem unto itself, and such as in children exposed to lead, to
it is relatively sensitive to foreign matter cancer from chromium and some
being applied to it. That's good for us in chemicals found in fertilizer, whether
the case of wanting to add soil those chemicals are still used or have been
amendments, fertilizer and compost to banned but are still found in the soil.
make the soil healthier, but not so good Some soil contaminants increase the risk
when it comes to soil pollution. of leukemia, while others can lead to
There are many different ways that soil kidney damage, liver problems and
can become polluted, such as: changes in the central nervous system.
• Seepage from a landfill Those are just the long term effects of soil
• Discharge of industrial waste into the pollution. In the short term, exposure to
soil chemicals in the soil can lead to
• Percolation of contaminated water into headaches, nausea, fatigue and skin rashes
the soil at the site of exposure.
• Rupture of underground storage tanks When it comes to the environment itself,
• Excess application of pesticides, the toll of contaminated soil is even direr.
herbicides or fertilizer Soil that has been contaminated should no
• Solid waste seepage longer be used to grow food, because the

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Van Sangyan Vol. 3, No. 1, Issue: Januaryr,
Januaryr 2016

chemicals can leech into the food and Effects on soil micro-organism
harm people who eat it.
If contaminated soil is used to grow food,
the land will usually produce lower yields
than it would if it were not contaminated.
This, in turn, can cause even more harm
because a lack of plants on the soil will
cause more erosion, spreading the
contaminants onto land that might not
have been tainted before.
In addition,
ddition, the pollutants will change the
The effects of pesticides on soil micromicro-
makeup of the soil and the types of
organisms can cause a ripple effect that
microorganisms that will live in it. If
can last for years. Micro-organisms
organisms are
certain organisms die off in the area, the
essential to healthy soil.. Without them,
larger predator animals will also have to
your plants will not reach their true
move away or die because they've lost
their food supply.. Thus it's possible for
organisms are organisms that are
soil pollution to change whole ecosystems.
too small to be seen with the human eye.
There are some ways to get soil back to its
They live on the top-mostmost layer of soil.
pristine condition or to remove the spoiled
There are many micro-organisms
organisms which
soil so the land can be used for agriculture
live in the soil including:
again. Tainted soil can be transported to a
• Bacteria
site where humans won't be exposed to the
• Fungi
chemicals, or the soil can be aerated to
remove some of the chemicals (which can • Algae
add the problem of air pollution if the • Protozoa
chemicals can be released into the air). Micro-organisms are responsible for the
Other options include what's known as decomposition and recycling of organic
bioremediation, where microorganisms are materials in the soil. They aid in the plant's
used to consume the pollution-causing
pollution absorption of essential nutrients. An
compounds as well as electromechanical example of this is the nitrogen fixing
systems for extracting chemicals, an and bacteria, Bradyrhizobium,, which lives in a
containment of chemicals by paving over nodule on the soybean plant. It provides
the tainted area. nitrogen to the plant and boosts growth.
None of these are an ideal solution. Biopesticides are micro-organisms
organisms that can
Preventing contamination in the first place help a plant defend it against pests. These
is the best way to go. It won't eliminate all micro-organisms
organisms include antimicrobial
potential pollution problems, but choosing metabolites, antibiotics and extracellular
to farm organically is a good ood way to enzymes. The potential ential of these
protect the soil (and yourself) from biopesticides has not been fully examined
chemicals found in pesticides and other by scientists. It is hopeful that science will
common garden chemicals. be able to re-produce
produce the effects of the
biopesticides, which will help to

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Van Sangyan Vol. 3, No. 1, Issue: Januaryr, 2016

eventually eliminate the need for harmful Alternatives to Harmful Chemical

chemical pesticides. Pesticides
Pesticides are designed to kill bugs that are For the average gardener, the use of
harmful to plants. Pesticides kill specific organic pesticides can keep a healthy
pests on plants such as slugs, beetles and balance in the soil. Many organic
flying insects. The chemicals used in most pesticides are made of minerals or other
pesticides can kill more than just garden plant materials that will keep pests at bay
pests; they can kill the helpful organisms and break down quickly in the soil.
that live in the soil. Some of these Examples of some common organic
chemicals can remain in the soil for years, pesticides include the following:
effectively keeping necessary micro- • Cayenne pepper spray--Can be sprayed
organisms from working the soil. on the leaves of plants to deter harmful
Common chemical pesticides that are used insects.
in gardens and by large-scale crop • Soap spray--Also sprayed on plants to
producers include the following: get rid of aphids.
• Basic Copper Sulfate • Tobacco powder--A spray can be made
• Silica Gel from the finely ground tobacco leaves
• Sodium Fluoride and water. It is used to kill sucking
• Carbon Disulfide insects on plants such as aphids, thrips
• Hydrogen Cyanide and spider mites.
• Methylchloroform • Pyrethrin--Made from the
• Fenthion chrysanthemum plant. This organic
• Boric Acid pesticide is used to knock out flying
There are literally hundreds of pesticides insects and ground pests such as grubs.
that have been manufactured and applied • Neem--Derived from the neem tree.
to soil in the past. We are beginning to Used to control Gypsy moths, leaf
understand the ramifications of using these miners, mealy bugs, whiteflies and
toxic chemicals on the soil. In places caterpillars.
where the chemicals are used extensively, • Sabadilla--Derived from the sabadilla
plants will no longer grow at all, or will lily. Used to control caterpillars, leaf
fail to thrive. hoppers, stink bugs and squash bugs.
Unfortunately, many pesticides can kill Soil pollution causes huge disturbances in
more than just their intended targets, the ecological balance and health of living
namely the necessary micro-organisms in organisms at an alarming rate. Some the
the soil. When chemicals are used for a effects of soil pollution are:
period of time on plants in an area, they • Disturbance in the balance of flora and
will eventually leach into the soil. Once in fauna inhabiting in the soil.
the soil they can kill the micro-organisms • Contaminated soil decreases soil
living in the soil that break down organic fertility and hence there is decrease in
material and aid in plant growth. It can the soil yield.
take years before micro-organisms can • Reduced soil fertility hence decrease in
once again live in soil that has had toxic soil yield.
chemicals applied to it.
• Loss of natural nutrients in soil.

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Van Sangyan Vol. 3, No. 1, Issue: Januaryr, 2016

• Reduced nitrogen fixation. • Exposure to benzene for a long term is

• Loss of soil and nutrients. associated with higher incidence of
• Increased soil erosion. leukemia. Mercury causes higher
• Imbalance in the flora and fauna of the incidences of kidney damage.
soil. Cyclodienes are linked to liver
• Increase in soil salinity, makes it unfit toxicity.
for cultivation. • Organophosphates can lead to chain of
• Creation of toxic dust. responses leading to neuromuscular
• Foul odor due to industrial chemicals blockage.
and gases. • Chlorinated solvents induce damages
• Alteration in soil structure can lead to to liver, kidney, depression of the
death of organisms in it. central nervous system.
• Reduction in soil fertility. On plant growth
• Loss of the natural nutrients of the • The balance of ecological system is
soil. affected due to contamination of the
• Imbalance is the flora and fauna of the
soil. • Plants are mostly unable to adapt to the
change in the chemistry of the soil in
• Salinity increases in the soil making it
short time period.
unfit for cultivation.
• The microorganisms found in the soil
• Crops grown on polluted soil cause
decline and create additional problems
health problems on consumption,
of soil erosion.
• Soil pollution creates toxic dust.
• Fertility of the soil decreases due to
• Foul odor due to chemicals and gases
soil pollution, making it unsuitable for
can lead to problems like headaches,
agriculture and local vegetation to
nausea, etc.
• Pollutants in soil cause alteration in
• Soil pollution is hazardous to health.
soil structure, causing death of many
• Polluted lands cannot support most
soil organisms. This can affect the food
forms of life.
Effects on humans On soil fertility
• The chemicals present in the soil due
• Soil pollution has major consequences
to pollution are toxic and can decrease
on human health. Consumption of
the fertility of the soil, thereby
crops and plants grown on polluted soil
decreasing the soil yield.
cause health hazards. This could
explain small and terminal illness. • Agriculture on contaminated soil
produces fruits and vegetable that lack
• Long term exposure to polluted soil
quality nutrients.
affects the genetic make-up of the
body and may congenital illnesses and • Consumption of these may be
chronic health diseases. poisonous and cause serious health
problems to people consuming them.
• Chronic exposure to heavy metals,
petroleum, solvents and agricultural Toxic dust
chemicals can be carcinogenic. • Emissions of toxic gases and foul odor
from the landfills pollute the

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Van Sangyan Vol. 3, No. 1, Issue: Januaryr,
Januaryr 2016

environment and causes serious health Prevention of soil pollution

effects on some people. Toxic chemical compounds, salts,
• The foul odor causes inconvenience to radioactive agents, toxins and other waste
people. contribute to soil pollution. These have
On soil structure adverse effect on plant and animal health.
• Soil pollution can lead to death of Soil contains both organic as well as
many soil organisms like the inorganic material. The organic material is
earthworms which can lead to
alteration in the soil structure.
• This can force other predators to move
to other places in search of food.
Control of soil ollution
A number of ways have been suggested to
curb the pollution rate. Attempts to clean
up the environmentt require plenty of time
and resources. Some the steps to reduce
A tilled field with rich soil.
soil pollution are: (Photo Credit Digital Vision./ Photodisc/ Getty Images)
• Ban on use of plastic bags below 20 formed due to decaying of plant and
microns thickness. animal matter. This often makes up the
• Recycling of plastic wastes. upper most layer of soil. The organic soil
• Ban on deforestation. such as rocks, has taken over thousands of
• Encouraging plantation programmes. years to be formed. d. The top layer is made
• Encouraging social and agro forestry up of organic soil, while the layers below
programmes. are inorganic soil. Pollution has gradually
• Undertaking awareness programmes. reached the inorganic layers as well. There
• Reducing the use of chemical fertilizer are different types of soil pollution,
and pesticides. namely agricultural soil pollution,
• Recycling paper, plastics and other industrial waste causing soil pollution,
materials. urbanization causing soil pollution. These
• Ban on use of plastic bags, which are a different types of pollution cause the
major cause of pollution. fertility of the soil to reduce and mineral
• Reusing materials. content in the soil to be destroyed.
Therefore, measures have to be taken for
• Avoiding deforestation and promoting
preventing soil pollution.
To increase agricultural yield, most
• Suitable and safe disposal of wastes
farmers took to using chemical fertilizers.
including nuclear wastes.
No doubt that the yield did indeed
• Chemical fertilizers and pesticides
increase, but at the cost of the soil losing
should be replaced by organic
its fertility. To restore the fertility of the
fertilizers and pesticides.
soil to what it was, will take a very long
• Encouraging social and agro forestry
time, however, one has to start at some
point of time. Drastic measures are
• Undertaking many pollution awareness required for the same. Farmers should be

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Van Sangyan Vol. 3, No. 1, Issue: Januaryr, 2016

encouraged to start using bio fertilizers. tissue papers in the kitchen, etc., one
The microorganisms in these fertilizers should opt using cloth napkins,
will help in increasing the fertility of the handkerchief, etc. This will go a long way
soil. in reducing landfills.
To avoid soil pollution, it is important, that There is no doubt that the organic products
along with fertilizers, farmers should shift are costly as opposed to the chemically
to bio pesticides and fungicides, also grown products. But choosing the organic
known as herbicides. These products will products will encourage more organic
take a little longer to react, but they do not production. This will help in preventing
have adverse effect on the soil. It is best to soil pollution.
use manure both as a fertilizer as well as To prevent soil pollution, deforestation
pesticide, as it has far less side effects as measures have to be undertaken at rapid
opposed to its chemical counterpart. pace. Soil erosion is caused, when there
If one has to look at the soil pollution are no trees to prevent the top layer of the
facts, it will be seen that toxic waste has a soil from being transported by different
big role to play in soil pollution. Hence, agents of nature like water and air. At the
industrial toxic waste should be treated to same time, measures should be taken to
reduce its toxicity before it is disposed off. avoid over cropping and over grazing, as it
At the same time, responsible methods leads to flood and soil erosion and further
should be used for disposing off the waste. deterioration of the soil layer.
The best, however, is to avoid the use of Various chemicals such as pesticides,
harmful chemicals unless they are of insecticides and fungicides play important
extreme importance. roles in plant growth; however the overuse
Although a lot of propaganda has been of these chemicals is considered to be one
carried out about recycling waste, not of the prime factors leading to soil
many measures have been taken about the pollution. Reducing or even avoiding the
same. If each family has to take it upon use of such chemicals is one of the most
themselves to recycle waste, the land elementary and important preventive
pollution caused due to landfills will be measures. Manures and bio-fertilization
reduced considerably. The land so saved can be used as alternatives to chemicals.
can be used constructively for a number of Manures are often recommended by
better tasks. environmentalists and agriculturists
After plastic was invented, people thought because, as compared to pesticides,
it was convenient to opt for plastic manures have minimal adverse effect on
containers, bags, etc., which could be the environment. Bio-fertilization is a
disposed off after use. However, plastic is process in which certain microorganisms
one of the main causes of soil pollution, as such as rhizobium are used to increase the
it takes a very long time to disintegrate. soil fertility in place of chemicals.
Therefore, people should consider shifting Another common measure used to
to reusable containers like glass, cotton minimize soil pollution is controlling the
bags, etc. Although paper does disintegrate growth of weeds. Weeds are unwanted
faster, a lot of trees are cut for producing plants that grow alongside the main plant
paper bags. Therefore, it is best to opt for and often result in the accumulation of
cloth bags. Similarly, instead of using various minerals into the soil layer. One of

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Van Sangyan Vol. 3, No. 1, Issue: Januaryr,
Januaryr 2016

the common methods to control weed

growth is covering the soil with layers of • Insist on buying natural and organic
newspapers or plastic sheets just before food,, because chemical pesticides and
cultivation. fertilizers are not used in their growing
process. Not only are organic foods
healthier for the environment, they are
also healthier for you and your family.
Read about the benefits of organic
• Cut down usage of paper. Or use
recycled paper. In this way, fewer trees
need to be cut down and there would
be reduced deforestation. Read about
Other common methods of preventing soil the benefits of recycling to the
pollution include reforestation and environment.
recycling of waste materials. De- De For decades people have believed that
forestation or the cutting down of trees harmful chemical pesticides were the only
often leads to erosion of the soil, which true way to rid gardens and crop fields
leads to soil pollution due to the loss of from pests. Soil pollution has occurred
fertility of the soil. Thus, reforestation is from the use of pesticides and it takes
an effective method of preventing soil years and sometimes decades for some of
pollution. these chemicals to break down. Luckily
In addition, reducingg the volume of refuse there are many organic chemicals that are
or waste in landfills by recycling materials just as effective. The effects of pesticides
such as plastics, papers and various other on soil micro-organisms
organisms are less invasive
materials is another effective and common when organic pesticides are used. People
method of preventing the phenomenon of need to break the habit of using harmful
soil pollution. pesticides and switch to using organic ones
• Strong regulatory programs to that break
eak down quickly in the sunlight
minimize soil contamination
amination need to be and in the soil. The faster a chemical
introduced. breaks down, the sooner the soil can return
• Reuse and recycle unwanted items. Or to a healthy state. Most organic pesticides
even better, reduce consumption are also safe to use around people and pets.
and reduce your trash.. The less rubbish They can easily be washed from fruits and
we create the less chance the waste vegetabless making them healthier for you
will end up in our soil. and your family to eat.
• There is a need to educate the public References
about the harms done when they litter. Adriano, D.C.; Bollag, J.
• For gardens, make use of organic org Frankenberger, W.T.; and Sims, R.C., eds.
fertilizers and organic pesticides, (1999). Bioremediation of Contaminated
because they are usually made of Soils. Agronomy monograph 37. American
natural substances, are bio-degradable
degradable Society of Agronomy.
and do little harm to the natural Miller, R.W., and Gardiner, D.T.
balance in the soil. (1998). Soils in Our Environment, 8th
 Published by Tropical Forest Research Institute, Jabalpur, MP, India 13
Van Sangyan Vol. 3, No. 1, Issue: Januaryr, 2016

edition. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice

Hall. prevent-soil-pollution.html
Pierzynski, G.M.; Sims, J.T.; and Vance,
G.F. (2000). Soils and Environmental ways-to-prevent-soil-
Quality, 2nd edition. Boca Raton, FL: pollution/#sthash.mF239tOv.dpuf
CRC Press. pollution-prevention.html
l-pollution/soil-pollution.html world-soil-day

 Published by Tropical Forest Research Institute, Jabalpur, MP, India 14

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