Soil Pollution Causes
Soil pollution is a very serious problem in industrialized countries. In order for soil to be productive and grow nutritious potatoes and other vegetables (or fruits) it has to be free of contaminants. The soil basically consists of several layers of mineral and organic materials.
The layers can vary in thickness and have many pore spaces that can contain liquid and gas. This fact establishes that soil is not only solid but is also composed of liquid and gas matter. A good soil produces healthy plant life which result in a well fed animal population. When soil gets polluted the entire food chain suffers; creating a huge number of problems.
One of the biggest contributors to soil pollution is heavy metals. These substances such as mercury, lead, cadmium, chromium, arsenic and copper can be naturally found in the soil at very low concentrations; when a bigger amount is added to the soil it can upset its delicate balance.
Other sources of pollution are power plants, chemical industries, vehicular traffic and some agriculture techniques (using polluted water and artificial fertilizers) are the main culprit of these unbalances. Too many heavy metals can decrease the population of bacteria living in the soil which leads to a decrease in the yield of crops.
Pesticides and many organic compounds are also a big problem for the soil. The use of pesticides to protect the plants from insects can affect adversely the harvest of fruits and vegetables. Chlorinated hydrocarbons, tars and oils can also cause serious damage to the land when used in large amounts.
Contamination by certain radioactive elements can cause some serious soil pollution as well. Some artificial plutonium isotopes can remain in the soil for a very long time threatening any plant and animal life in the area.
As the soil gets polluted the entire ecological system suffers greatly. The fruits and vegetables produced by a contaminated soil can endanger the life of anyone consuming them. Some of the consequences of eating toxic crops are birth defects, a great number of respiratory diseases and many more health problems. Besides lowering the quality of crops, too much toxic material can decrease the quantity of it. If too many toxic substances accumulate in the soil, it can get to the point where no plant life can grow in it.
• A typical technique often used is to incinerate the soil. The problem with this is that while it can get rid of organic chemicals it releases them into the air causing air pollution.
• The removal of heavy metals is generally done by using acid, bases and chelating agents. These chemicals are effective in eliminating heavy metals from the soil but they tend to produce additional waste as a result of the chemical reaction.
• One of the cleanest and most efficient ways to clean the soil is by using microorganisms. Some bacteria are very effective in eliminating toxic organic matter and other dangerous substances. Their growth can be controlled by manipulating the conditions of the soil like the ph and temperature.
• Plants can also be used to clean the land by a process called phytoremediation.
Some plant types are able to accumulate high concentrations of dangerous substances without dying. The plants such as tomato, arrowroot, sunflower and pennycress (among many others); are often used to remove heavy metals, pesticides and radioactive isotopes from the ground. This can help to decontaminate large soil areas in a natural way.
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