Pin Me

Cause of Soil Pollution & What You Can do to Help

written by: Matt Schelke•edited by: Niki Fears•updated: 7/28/2009

Soil is the foundation of the worlds' ecosystems. As industry increases, though, pollution increases too. Read on to find the cause of soil pollution, how it effects our ecosystems and what you can do to help.

  • slide 1 of 1

    Importance of Soil

    What do you look at when you walk outside? The sky and the tops of trees? Birds and animals? Other people?

    Next time you step out your door, look beneath your feet at the soil. Healthy soil is the foundation of thriving ecosystems; it supplies food, recycles nutrients, supports growth, and nurtures sprouts. But soil can’t do anything unless it is clean, pure, and toxin free. Unfortunately, the world’s soil is becoming dirtier every day.

    Cause of Soil Pollution

    Soil can become contaminated in many ways. Chemicals, like herbicides and pesticides, are major polluters; oil dumps, landfills, and industrial wastes can also wreak havoc. But how do these chemicals and oils get into open spaces far away from industrial sites and dumps?

    Let’s take a plot of land in Anywhere, USA, as an example. This land houses a small stand of trees, a nice meadow, and a small creek. Long before it reaches our plot, though, the creek runs beneath a hill by a factory. When it rains, water carries factory waste down the hill and into the creek, which carries it to our plot. In addition, there’s a farming operation a hundred miles away from our plot. The farmers use pesticides to protect their crops. However, some of the pesticides evaporate when temperatures rise; the next rainfall brings those chemicals to our plot as acid rain.

    Effects of Soil Pollution

    As you can see, pollutants can impact soil everywhere. And the effects are potentially disastrous: small chemical changes in soil can render an area inhospitable to plants, virtually eliminating the food chain’s foundation. Also, chemicals that runoff through soil into rivers and streams can contaminate drinking water. For farmers, pollutants can reduce crop yields and lead to heavy erosion.

    What Can We Do to Help?

    Fortunately, the US and other countries have developed strong regulatory programs to minimize soil contamination. In the US, CERCLA has established regulations for soil use and has cleaned up thousands of contaminated sites. England, too, has is a good set of soil guidance principles. Other countries around the world are following suit.

    So what can you do? Most importantly, recycle. The less trash we put out, the less chance that trash will end up in our soil. If you’re a gardener, use environmentally-friendly insect control methods. And, if you can, buy organic food that wasn’t grown using harmful pesticides. It’s hard to worry about the soil’s health as new factories, highways, and buildings go up, but it deserves some serious consideration.