The Effects of Soil Pollution on the Environment

There are many potential causes of soil pollution. Industrial chemicals, lead contamination, radioactive metals, leaking underground fuel tanks, improper disposal of hazardous materials, agricultural chemicals, salts, sewage, all are among the causes of modern soil pollution. It can even be caused by natural sources. Ground pollution effects vary based on the specific type of soil pollution as each one causes a wide variety of harmful environmental effects. If you are considering buying a home, get your soil tested to make sure there are no problems in the land itself.

The sprinkler on the coal mine
credit: ViewStock/View Stock/GettyImages
The Effects of Soil Pollution on the Environment

Dangers of Fertilizers

Nutrients added to the soil by agricultural interests to increase crop yields pose one of the largest sources of soil pollution. Rain can wash these nutrients out of the soil into lakes and ponds. There they promote the growth of algae and other harmful plants. They increase microbe levels, and reduce the oxygen content of the whole body of water. On land, fertilizer-based soil pollution causes a wide variety of problems due to poisoning, such as burned roots, stunted growth, and mineral deficiencies.

Salt Contamination in Soil

Salinization of the soil is a common pollution problem caused by irrigation in arid and semi-arid climates. This irrigation causes salts to build up in the soil. This eventually makes the soil unable to grow most crops. Salts are very difficult to remove from soil, so this is a pernicious problem.

Groundwater Pollution Effects

Soil pollutants eventually leach their way through the soil and into groundwater. This pollutes local water sources, including wells and springs, making the water dangerous to drink and for local wildlife and plants.

Heavy Metal Pollution

Radioactive heavy metals such as uranium, radium and plutonium pollute the soil in some places, either naturally or because of human activity. Other heavy metals, such as lead, mercury, arsenic, and chromium rise to dangerous concentrations in the soil as a result of mining activities, industrial activity, and automobile use. These metals in the soil can cause plant fertility problems, and many of them, such as lead and arsenic, are poisonous to animals and people. The radioactive metals also cause damage to the chromosomes of animals and people, leading to mutations, cancer, and a variety of other problems.

Pesticides and Soil Pollution

Pesticides also cause soil pollution. They can poison plants. Soil contamination caused by pesticides can also decrease the fertility of the soil, making it less able to support plant life. They also can cause toxic reactions in people and animals.