Thursday, January 22, 2015

A Brief History of Soil Contamination

                

                Soil contamination; two words that when put together create a very serious concept.  Soil contamination is a major issue throughout the entire world.  Locations all across the planet have dealt with the pollution and destruction of their soil.  What does this mean? 

                Soil contamination occurs when hazardous substances (either liquid or solid) mix with the naturally occurring soil; the concentration of nutrients, elements, or chemicals in the soil becomes unbalanced/higher than normal.  The hazardous substances generally are a result of human action.  Soil contamination can continue and harm living organisms.  If this occurs, it is called pollution.  Soil pollution is similar to soil contamination.  It is when humans, directly or indirectly, introduce harmful chemicals or substances into the soil, resulting in the harm, death, or destruction of other living things, destruction of soil and/or water ecosystems. 
                The United States Environmental Protection Agency lists the following as a common example of an act that leads to soil contamination: “soil can become contaminated when small particles containing hazardous substance are released from a smokestack and are deposited on the surrounding soil as they fall out of the air.  Another source of soil contamination could be water that washes contamination from an area containing hazardous substances and deposits the contamination in the soil as it flows over or through it (http://www.epa.gov/superfund/students/wastsite/soilspil.htm) .
                Another cause of soil contamination could be chemicals used for farming that end up in the ground.  Common chemicals are pesticides and herbicides; these can find their way into the soil and end up destroying it.  A more indirect way for soil contamination to occur is through the spreading of one contaminated area to another.  This can occur from runoff from a heavy rainstorm or flood. 
                These are just a few causes of soil contamination and pollution.  Industrial activity (extracting minerals from the Earth and the waste lingers in the soil surface long after), oil spills (chemicals from oil make soil unsuitable once contact is made), agricultural activity (increase in chemical utilization with modern pesticides and fertilizers.  Many of these chemicals are not natural and can’t be broken down by nature), waste disposal (do we dispose of waste in a safe and efficient way?), and acid rain (pollutants in the air mix with the rain and fall back on the ground) are a few more causes. 

                This is just a brief history of soil contamination and its causes.  Check back in for how we can make a change.  

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