Soil Contamination; Time to Get Rid of It

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Pollution is something that has become a part and parcel of our lives in the modern world. It is growing to be a matter of international concern. Now, what exactly is pollution? It is when some unwanted and harmful substances are released into the atmosphere. In other words, pollution is the contamination of the atmosphere in every form. Activists and environmentalists around the world are trying to imply green living and make people understand the importance of going green. Soil, as we all know, is the basic foundation of the world. It is like the pillar that holds the ecosystem straight. When this very soil on which humans and plants take birth and flourish is contaminated, the entire ecological balance is at stake. Let us here discuss elaborately the causes and effects of this kind of pollution- the soil pollution!

Causes

A lot of things happening on the earth’s surface lead to land pollution. Acid rain is one of those many reasons of soil pollution. Acid rain is basically a form of precipitation that is highly acidic and has a very low pH. When this acidic precipitation occurs on the earth’s surface, it causes permanent damage to many plants and animals. Now, the question is, what causes acid rain? Acid rain occurs when sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide are emitted into the atmosphere and they react with the water molecules present to form the acids. The harmful chemicals in acid rain can even lead to erosion of bridges and statues and other such structures, thus putting thousands of lives in danger.

The soil, just like the ocean, gets contaminated by accidental spills. Oils, chemicals and other toxic substances when are accidentally spilled on the land, it gets very difficult to remove them. Hence, over years these harmful substances mix with the soil and affect many plants and animals and also humans who consume them.

Intensive farming might produce great results in the short run, with lots of crops and lots of money, but in the long run, it tends to degrade the soil and contaminate it so much that farming becomes risky on those patches of land. The use of pesticides, fertilizers and other chemicals to enhance the growth of crops lead to soil erosion in a few years and also water pollution.

We do not need to explain separately what hazardous effects deforestation has on our ecosystem. Cutting down of trees loosen the soil, which was tightly bound by the roots of the trees. Many wild animals lose their natural habitat and ultimately the soil is eroded.

 Landfill and dumping of wastes might sound to be a great idea for disposing the waste, but the harm it causes to the soil is beyond imagination. The soil in a landfill site is exposed to harmful and toxic substances over years. That soil ultimately gets ‘poisoned’ by those waste materials and is of no good to the plants and animals.

The drainage of used water which gets mixed with the soil, also contaminates the soil to a large extent. Water from agricultural lands, filled with fertilizers and pesticides, the water from sewage tanks and landfill sites, household water, all of them ultimately get mixed with the soil. Needless to say, the soil gets contaminated by the chemicals and toxic substances present in those waters.

The disposition of coal ash, which is used for several purposes, also contaminates the soil. The coal, when it is formed, it concentrates metals like lead and zinc. So when the coal burns, these metals are concentrated in the ash that is formed. This lead is a well known hazardous waste. When this ash is disposed of on the soil, no wonder, the soil gets polluted and affected.

The electronic wastes are one of the main reasons for soil pollution. After the electronic items are disposed, their crops contain harmful substances like cadmium, lead, beryllium and brominated flame retardants. These all spell danger and when they come in contact with the soil, the soil obviously gets affected.

Effects

As the soil is contaminated, it has direct effects on human beings when we consume those plants or animals living on the soil. When humans are exposed to harmful elements like lead, chromium, petroleum etc. it leads to congenital disorders and other diseases.

The contaminated soil has a negative effect on the entire ecosystem. When the soil is contaminated by these harmful substances, the entire chemistry of the soil changes. Hence the microorganisms living in the soil, their metabolism changes and can even lead to death. They might form a negligible part of the food chain that exists, but over years, the difference will be felt and the whole food chain will be misbalanced.

The soil pollution also leads to poor effects on the agricultural lands. Years and years of exposure to chemicals and pesticides gradually degrade even the most fertile land and hence, the crop production reduces drastically over a certain period of time.

Remedial Measures

Though soil pollution is increasing at an alarming rate, we can still take a few steps to check the rate. It’s better late than never.

  • The contaminated soil can be thrown away to a far off land where it won’t come in contact with any plants or animals.
  • The soil can be heated up so as to vaporize the harmful substances out of it.
  • Planting trees can never fall short of benefits for any kind of pollution. When we plant more and more trees on the contaminated and polluted soil, the initial yield might be very less as the plants might die out because of the harmful substances in the soil. But as time will progress, the soil will start to retain the fertility it once had.
  • We can extract the underground water through various processes. As a result of this process of extraction, the chemicals will be stripped out from the soil.
  • We can use fungus on the contaminated soil, which tends to metabolize the harmful contaminants and they accumulate the heavy metals like lead and zinc out of the soil.

 

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