Soil pollution is mainly caused by the occurrence of excess soil erosion or excessive loss of natural soil fertility due to excessive plowing, mining, or agricultural activities. It is usually caused by agricultural chemical application, industrial activity or improper disposal or dumping of trash. This practice causes huge amounts of soil to be thrown away which in turn contaminates the groundwater. If this happens to the water system, the quality will become contaminated too. Soil contamination can have grave consequences not only on the human health and soil condition but also on the environment.
Chemical contamination of soil leads to the formation of land polluting chemicals such as pesticides and fertilizers, which are known to be carcinogens, pollutes the environment and thus end up in detrimental effects to the ecosystem. These chemicals often get absorbed into the plant roots and reach the consumer foods where they are consumed unknowingly. In addition, chemical contaminants also cause damage to the soil during the harvest season leading to an increase in the cost of food.
The primary reason behind the rise in the production of food is the increased use of pesticides and fertilizers and the increasing demand for animal meat and milk products. This results in an increased demand for the agricultural products such as grain, feed and fuel. This has resulted in the uncontrolled over-production of feed which leads to a shortage of agricultural products, which ultimately affects the food chain. As a result, soil pollution becomes a very prominent problem, because the excessive use of pesticides and fertilizers have led to the pollution of the soil.
Soil polluted by mining is unfit for crops and other plants. Mining activities have resulted in the contamination of the soil not just in one area or in one country but in all continents. One such major source of global soil pollution is the massive disposal of heavy metals in the United States. These metals such as mercury, lead and arsenic are disposed off in open land dredging and injection sites. These open land disposal sites are most often unregulated and are a major cause of the rise in cancer cases across the globe.
Another major source of soil pollution is agriculture. Farming methods have changed dramatically over the years due to the rise in demand for food. Chemical fertilizers and pesticides have also contributed to the problem. These chemicals easily infiltrate the soil and pollute it leading to a variety of diseases. The use of highly advanced machinery and fertilizers with poisonous ingredients are the main causes of this type of soil pollution.
Soil quality will deteriorate if the use of pesticides and fertilizers is unchecked. In the coming years, the need for more efficient ways to control soil erosion and pollution will arise. A solution to this problem is to introduce technology in agricultural sectors that uses less pesticides and fertilizers. One example is the practice of aquaculture where fish farming, crop rotation and soil fumigation are used to control pollution. A promising technology that is being tried out is called Aquaponics and is aimed at improving water quality by utilizing the natural cycle of life in water systems.
Another solution for soil pollution and other related problems is the implementation of biofuels in an effort to reduce pesticides and fertilizers needed. There are many biofuels being developed with the aim of replacing agricultural practices and using them instead to generate electricity. For example the agricultural practices of burning of fossil fuels such as coal and oil in automobiles are being replaced by ethanol produced from sugar cane and biomass. Similarly Biocellulose, derived from sugar cane is being used for fueling automobiles.
It should be noted that soil contamination is not the only environmental problem caused by agricultural practices. Chemical pollution is also one such problem. Many chemicals used in the food and beverage industry are actually hazardous to the environment. They are known to be carcinogenic in nature and have been linked to birth defects. Hence the adoption of safer agricultural practices and use of safer chemicals would go a long way in reducing the scope for contamination to the extent possible.