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Soil pollution: causes, consequences and solutions

Soil pollution involves the alteration of the earth’s surface with chemical substances that are harmful to life in different ways, endangering ecosystems and also our health. This alteration in the quality of the land can be due to very different causes and, in the same way, its various consequences cause serious health problems that seriously affect flora, fauna and human health. They do so, for example, through agriculture or by affecting the balance of the ecosystem, polluting drinking water or irrigation water, either by coming into contact with these places or by the simple fact that it comes from them. Unfortunately, the problem cannot always be solved, and sometimes it is only partially recovered, with the consequent degradation of the area.

If you want to know the details about soil contamination: causes, consequences and solutions , from AgroCorrn we invite you to read this article in which you will find the answers

What is soil pollution and its types – with examples

Soil pollution can be defined as changes that alter the composition of the land surface or soil in such a way that it is harmed. Thus, the contamination of the earth impoverishes it, even causing it to lose all its fertility and making it impossible for vegetation to grow on it and inhabit it by different types of living beings. Therefore, the contamination of the earth implies that there are harmful results that endanger the ecosystems and the health of those who inhabit them. In addition, there are various types and examples of soil contamination. These are the main types of soil contamination :

Endogenous or natural contamination

It is the type of soil contamination that occurs naturally, since it is the kind that occurs when there are natural phenomena that drag and filter natural chemical elements into the earth but in very high concentrations so that the soil remains healthy and fertile. .

For example, we find acid rain or rain that carries heavy materials, such as heavy metals, and volcanic eruptions or fires, which emit high concentrations of harmful gases and sulfur.

Anthropic, exogenous or human contamination

It is the type of pollution that humans produce, that is, it occurs when through human activities we introduce pollutants into nature. It occurs in the case of vehicular or car pollution, in the case of factories and industries, the use of air conditioning and heating, the undue exploitation of natural resources, and so on.

Chemical contamination

It is part of anthropic pollution, since it occurs when synthetic chemicals are introduced into the environment. This is the case of pesticides and pesticides, hydrocarbons and solvents. These substances negatively affect the entire environment, so they pollute the soil, but also the air and water and favor the ecological imbalance of the area.

Soil contamination by infiltration

That the water on the surface infiltrates the soil into the soil is a natural process, but it is harmful in certain areas (due to the excess water that the soil releases too much) and whenever it is contaminated, since all the soil is deposited. water contamination in the soil.

Land pollution by waste

The accumulation of our waste, whether from home or from businesses or large industries, in a specific place generates a high level of direct soil contamination, since the waste degradation process occurs due to exposure to the environment and its leaching. This is the case of garbage dumps.

Runoff pollution

Pollution by runoff occurs due to the dragging of certain polluting agents, such as fertilizers, pesticides, oil, etc. This is due to the water from snow and rain that seeps into the ground and erodes it and contaminates it with these agents.

Pollution from abandoned buildings

The abandonment of buildings and facilities that belonged to some industry or, even, populations, also produces environmental pollution, especially on the ground. The vacant lots remain useless for animals and plants for a long time and in this period, in addition, they do not stop contaminating through the elements, among which even dangerous residues can be found.

Causes of soil or land contamination

Contact with the polluted area is not always direct. This is what happens when toxic substances are buried under the ground and they end up contaminating groundwater that is then used to irrigate, drink or end up poisoning us through the food or trophic chain, when we eat fish, birds or any other contaminated animal.

The incorrect storage of waste, its intentional or accidental dumping, the accumulation of rubbish on its surface or the burial thereof, as well as leaks in surface or underground tanks due to breakdowns or deficient infrastructure are some of its main causes.

However, the list is much longer. We can cite other causes no less important, such as radioactive leaks , the intensive use of pesticides or chemical fertilizers , mining, the activities of the chemical industry, heavy metals that come out of the exhaust pipe of road traffic and the chimneys of the industry. , construction materials, especially due to water runoff that spreads harmful products, old sewage in poor condition or, without going any further, acid rain itself .

Given the variety of sources of contamination, the causes are often difficult to identify, as contaminants can reach the soil, plants, animals or water for many different reasons that are not always obvious. In any case, what we can say is almost all of them have to do with human action and industrial activity. Summarizing, and schematically, the causes of soil contamination are:

  • Dumping of waste and garbage.
  • Intensive use of chemicals.
  • Radioactive leaks.
  • Smoke from cars and industry.
  • Old sewer.

Types of soil pollutants – examples

The sources of soil contamination are many and very diverse. As a summary, we can highlight that the main pollutants on earth are:

  • Urban waste that pollutes water and soil.
  • Pesticides (insecticides, herbicides, fungicides).
  • Mining.
  • Large accumulation of garbage, both in public or natural areas and in landfills and industrial areas.

In this other EoclogíaVerde post we talk extensively about What are the soil pollutants and, therefore, we recommend it if you want to expand this information on soil contamination.

Effects and consequences of soil contamination

The loss of quality of the land involves a series of negative consequences that range from its devaluation to the impossibility of using it to build, cultivate or, simply and simply, to house a healthy ecosystem.

The consequences can be suffered silently, causing a constant trickle of victims, whether human or animal and plant species, as stated. In this second case, it is an abrupt pollution that causes real environmental catastrophes and many victims.

The radioactive leak from the Japanese power plant in Fukushima is a clear example, since the contamination of the land or soil has affected agriculture, livestock and fishing . Radioactive cesium has even been found off the coast of Fukushima, specifically in the earthy seafloor from those same spills, according to a recent study by the Institute of Industrial Sciences at the University of Tokyo, the University of Kanazawa and the National Research Institute. .

On the other hand, along with a logical deterioration of the landscape due to the impoverishment of the ecosystem , often an irreversible loss, the contamination of the land entails millionaire losses by preventing the exploitation of this natural environment by the indigenous population or industrial investors.

Thus, among the consequences of soil contamination we find:

  • Loss of flora and its variety.
  • Difficulties for agriculture and farming.
  • Pollution and loss of fauna.
  • Deterioration of the landscape.
  • Global impoverishment of the ecosystem, whether marine or terrestrial.

How to avoid soil contamination – solutions

Prevention is the best solution, there is no doubt about that, but it is also true that this type of contamination cannot always be avoided. Sometimes accidents occur or are caused by acid rain, which is difficult to control, if not impossible.

Going directly to the roots of the problem, a drastic change in the production model or a ban on certain practices such as mining extraction, industrial activity that produces toxic waste or, for example, the use of artificial fertilizers and fertilizers would be necessary.

As it is, these premises are nothing but pure utopia. Therefore, in the face of fait accompli, solutions are sought that range from cleaning the area to the simple delimitation of the damaged area and the prohibition of its use for certain activities. In severe cases, such as Fukushima, one of the most polluted places on the planet , the affected areas are unsuitable for life.

And, since pollution has increased in recent decades as a result of industrialization and urban development, the solutions come precisely from the control of these sources. Usually, the actions focus on the improvement of recycling plants to reduce the contamination of the land or soil and, at the same time, of the water, since it ends up polluting it.

Soil bioremediation is a strategy that seeks to restore polluted ecosystems using living beings , such as bacteria, plants, fungi … Depending on the type of contamination that you want to combat, one or another bioremediation agent will be used. Its application is wide, with interesting results in soils contaminated by radioactivity or, for example, by mining activities.

As good practices, an adequate recycling of garbage and waste treatment, the promotion of renewable energies and waste at an industrial and domestic level or the promotion of ecological agriculture would help to keep the soils free of pollution. Maintain the sewer networks in good condition and improve the purification of gray or residual waters , as well as the treatment of industrial discharges that are returned to nature.

Thus, the solution to the problem of soil contamination involves:

  • Prevention and awareness.
  • The prohibition of harmful practices.
  • Improvement in recycling processes.
  • Improvement in water purification processes.
  • I use renewable energy.
  • Renovate the sewer.

Hello, I am a blogger specialized in environmental, health and scientific dissemination issues in general. The best way to define myself as a blogger is by reading my texts, so I encourage you to do so. Above all, if you are interested in staying up to date and reflecting on these issues, both on a practical and informative level.

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