Soil contamination

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Soil pollution is the accumulation of substances on the surface of the earth, which endanger the survival of living beings.

That is, land degradation, due to the presence of chemical and / or physical elements derived from human activity.

Factors that affect soil contamination

Among the main factors influencing soil contamination are:

  • The presence of each substance, its concentration, toxicity, the possibility of biodegrading, the time it remains in the soil ...
  • The climatic situation in the area. For example, rain can cause it to degrade, but it can also contaminate water tributaries. Another example is the wind whose action causes the particles to travel contaminating areas far from the place where they originated.
  • The particularities of the soil. That is, the amount of microorganisms, whether they have the ability to decompose some polluting substances or lack them.

Origin of soil contamination

The causes that originate soil contamination are of a different nature. The most significant are listed below due to the consequences that affect the planet.

  • Industrial waste, these can be, for example, electronic waste of solid components.
  • Mining waste, such as heavy metals and arsenic.
  • Hospital waste that does not have good residual management, whether inorganic or organic, with infectious pathologies that can be transmitted to other living beings.
  • Waste that is not properly managed and is carried out in the open air, such as defecation.
  • Waste from unsustainable agriculture, such as the use of pesticides and / or fertilizers, which degrade soils by eliminating organic matter. It also generates toxicity to plants and even food itself.
  • Unsustainable livestock, a clear example is the use of antibiotics, which in many cases are not fully absorbed by livestock and part of their components are discarded through their secretions. This in turn seeps into the ground and later into the water. In addition to contaminating soil and water, it makes bacteria resistant to antimicrobials. Which in turn implies that it is necessary to use increasingly stronger antibiotics.
  • Domestic waste without good management. Some examples of this are plastic bags, solvents, paints, aerosols, tires, motor oil, batteries, etc.
  • Waste from the construction industry, whose management is not adequate. These can be glues, solvents, paints, lamps ...
  • Soil contamination causes organic loss, acidification, compaction, and soil erosion. The most serious thing is that to all this is added the action of the wind that can contaminate larger areas of land, different from where the contamination originated.
  • Nuclear waste that is released accidentally or when functionality tests are performed. Which makes it impossible to recover the soil in decades.
  • The spillage of hydrocarbons, due to its low solubility in water and a very slow transfer of solid mass, makes it difficult for soil microorganisms to degrade it naturally.

Importance of knowledge of soil contamination

Soil pollution compromises the future of the planet's survival, as it has a negative effect on food security worldwide. This is because, by degrading the quality of the soil, it affects biodiversity. Therefore, it reduces the organic matter that contains the nutrients that plants require to survive, which in turn are the sustenance of living beings, thus compromising food security.

In the same way, soil contamination also impacts the absorption of water in the subsoil. This occurs, for example, due to the existence of heavy metals and emerging pollutants that impede the function of filtering water into the subsoil. It is therefore possible to say that soil pollution also pollutes water.

Soil contamination has effects on human health, due to the following aspects:

  • The toxicological hazard, which in severe cases can lead to diseases such as cancer or even death.
  • Allergies and infections due to ingestion of food grown on contaminated soil.
  • Poisoning from ingesting contaminated water as a result of soil contamination.
  • Poisoning from ingesting contaminated cattle, which in turn became ill from the contamination of their food.
  • Soil pollution has an effect on the increase in the temperature of the planet, since the degradation of the soil releases hundreds of thousands of tons of CO2 per year that end up in the atmosphere.
  • Migration, faced with soil contamination, which exhausts the means of survival, the populations change their place of origin in search of uncontaminated natural resources.

Global economic losses increase annually due to the aforementioned causes. So knowing what pollutes and the effects it has, allows better solutions to be managed. And since the vast majority of soil pollutants are due to human interaction, we are responsible for making changes to reduce it.

Measurement of soil contamination

The way in which soil contamination is measured is by obtaining samples and subsequently laboratory analysis. There are also some portable measuring instruments, thanks to which it is possible to measure the concentration of pollutants with results in the field.

Ideally, the samples should be taken in areas where there is agricultural activity and where human activities are most exposed to know their effects and make priority decisions.

To take samples, it is necessary to keep in mind the direction of the prevailing wind and underground currents. Since these factors will have an effect on the studies that are carried out.

Some of the substances that pollute the soil are:

  • Lead acid.
  • Arsenic.
  • Chrome.
  • Mercury.
  • Cadmium.
  • Sulfur dioxide.
  • Heavy metals.
  • Glyphosate

Actions to reduce soil pollution

Within the international agenda there is a series of Sustainable Development Goals that commit many countries to reduce soil degradation.

These are concentrated in the "Agenda for Sustainable Development 2030". Among those who touch on this issue and its importance due to the danger it represents for food security in the world, are Goal 1. End of poverty (SDG), Goal 2. Zero hunger (SDG), Goal 3. Health and well-being (SDG), Goal 12. Responsible consumption and production (SDG) and Goal 15. Life of terrestrial ecosystems (SDG).

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