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What is Soil Pollution? Definition, Causes, Types, Effects, and Control

Soil Pollution

Environmental contamination is something that we are all aware of. The largest source of environmental pollution today is soil, which is regarded as the “dumping yards” of the world. Thus, soil pollution can be defined as the presence of harmful compounds (also known as pollutants or contaminants) in the soil in quantities high enough to endanger human health, and the ecosystem is referred to as soil pollution. When contaminants are present in soil naturally, even if their concentrations are too low to pose a threat, soil pollution is still considered to have taken place if the contaminants’ concentrations are higher than they should be. Contaminants or pollutants have negative effects on the health, property, and environment of people. They are either by-products or residues from the production of something useful, or they are sewage, waste, accidental discharge, or both. 

The soil is the thin surface layer that contains a variety of organic materials (decayed remains of plants and animals) and inorganic material (rock fragments, etc.) that is essential for production.

Must Check: Types of Soil in India- Characteristics and Classification

Soil Pollution Examples

Based on the source of contamination or the kinds of pollutants found in the soil, there are numerous forms of soil pollution that can be categorized. Check out some major soil pollution examples

  • Chemical pollution: It is brought on by the discharge of dangerous substances into the soil, including industrial chemicals, heavy metals, pesticides, and herbicides.
  • Biological pollution: It happens when bacteria, viruses, or other dangerous germs infect the soil. The dumping of untreated sewage, animal feces, or other organic matter can cause this.
  • Physical pollution: It is a different kind of soil pollution caused by the buildup of non-biodegradable detritus in the soil, such as plastic, glass, or metal.
  • Radioactive pollution: It is a form of soil contamination brought on by the presence of radioactive substances in the soil, which can seriously endanger both human and animal health. It is essential to comprehend the many types of soil pollution in order to create efficient prevention and mitigation plans for their effects on the environment and public health.

Must check: Environmental Pollution Essay in English

Soil Pollution Causes

The following are some of the  causes that pollute soil:

  • Toxic Inorganic compounds: The dumping of residues or byproducts of industrial waste is one of the causes that cause excessive contamination of the soil. These byproducts such as superphosphate, phosphoric acid, aluminum, etc are some heavy metals that make the soil very acidic and cause leaf injury, and make the soil unfit for any vegetation. Thus, it would require a great period to replenish the soil. Other metals such as copper, mercury, cadmium, lead, nickel, etc lead to accumulation.
  • Organic compounds:  When piled up or disposed of inappropriately, household waste, sewage from public facilities, and industrial waste constitute a major threat to the health of people, plants, and animals . Borates, phosphates, and detergents can be found in high concentrations in organic waste. They will hinder plants’ ability to grow vegetatively if left untreated. Coal and phenols are the two main organic pollutants.
  • Pesticides:  In order to prevent pest attacks, farmers employ pesticides. However, this use of pesticides harms the beneficial microorganisms found in the soil, which can result in decreased crop yields. In addition, overusing pesticides causes the material to build up in the soil, making it unusable for farming in the years to come. Some of the commonly used pesticides are BHC, DDT, 2,4-D, Alfrin, etc.
  • Deforestation: Deforestation, agricultural development, temperature extremes, precipitation, especially acid rain, and human activities all contribute to this erosion. Human activity hastens this process through overcrowding, overgrazing, mining, logging, and construction. The end outcome is soil erosion and flooding. The excellent binding qualities of grasslands and woods maintain the soil’s health and cleanliness. They support a vast range of ecosystems and habitats, which give rise to an infinite number of food chains or feeding routes for all species. If they vanished, many species’ chances of surviving would be in jeopardy.

Soil pollution Effects

Soil pollution’s effects on plants and animals: The major environmental problem of soil pollution can harm both plants and animals. The growth and health of plants can be impacted when soil is contaminated with dangerous compounds such as heavy metals, herbicides, or petroleum products. Reduced crop yields and poorer food quality for both people and animals may result from this.

Through the food chain, whereby animals eat plants and other organisms that may have accumulated toxic substances from the soil, animals can also be impacted by soil pollution. This can result in a variety of health issues, and in rare circumstances, even death. 

Additionally, because it can change the balance of species and interfere with natural processes, soil pollution can have long-term effects on ecosystems and biodiversity. Soil contamination must therefore be prevented and reduced in order to save both plants and animals as well as the environment as a whole.

Soil pollution’s effects on agriculture: Agriculture can be significantly impacted by soil contamination since it can result in decreased crop yields, lower-quality produce, and even crop failure. It also results in decreased nitrogen fixation, which raises the issue of farmers using too many fertilizers.

It can be challenging for plants to develop and thrive when soil is contaminated with dangerous elements like heavy metals, herbicides, or industrial waste since they can impair the soil’s structure and reduce its fertility. Stunted growth, decreased output, and an increase in plant diseases and pests might result from this. 

As crops may absorb and accumulate harmful substances from the soil, which can pose health risks to people and animals, soil pollution can also affect the quality and safety of food. 

Additionally, soil pollution can have a significant financial impact on agriculture because it can lower farmer incomes, increase production costs, and decrease consumer access to food. To safeguard the environment and ensure the sustainability of agriculture, it is crucial to avoid and reduce soil contamination using strategies including good waste management, sustainable agricultural practices, and soil remediation techniques.

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Soil Pollution Effects on human

Soil pollution can have short-term as well as long-term effects on human lives.

Short term effect includes : 

  • Soil contamination can cause skin allergies, skin irritation, etc.
  • High concentrations of heavy metals, such as lead or cadmium, can be absorbed into the body through the skin or through breathing, which can result in severe poisoning. Headaches, nausea, and vomiting are just a few of the symptoms that may result from this. GI issues including diarrhea and cramping can also result from ingesting polluted soil.
  • Additionally, exposure to soil tainted with pesticides or other harmful chemicals can cause harm to the nervous system, respiratory issues, and in some cases even cancer.
  • It is crucial to take precautions to limit exposure to polluted soil, such as avoiding contact with the soil or wearing protective gear when working in contaminated regions because the short-term consequences of soil pollution on human health can be severe.

Long-term effects include :

Constant contact with pollutants can permanently harm the neurological system, which will affect the person’s ability to concentrate and remember things. Additionally, this might harm the body’s essential organs and raise the risk of developing cancer.

Soil Pollution Solutions

As a society, we should adopt the following techniques in order to control soil pollution which are : 

Techniques for extraction and separation 

It involves employing different procedures to separate heavy metals like lead, cadmium, copper, zinc, and nickel. Additionally, it is possible to separate hydrocarbons from halogenated hydrocarbons, which can lessen soil contamination. 

Chemical methods 

It is a procedure that uses chemicals to either remove or neutralize poisons in order to reduce pollution. The process known as “soil flushing” uses a chemical solution to remove pollutants from the soil and is one of the techniques that is frequently used.

Chemical oxidation is another technique that is used to transform contaminants into less dangerous ones. It involves the use of strong oxidizing agents like hydrogen peroxide or potassium permanganate.

The success of chemical techniques may be influenced by the nature and extent of the contamination, and they also have drawbacks such as the potential to produce byproducts that are still damaging to the environment. Therefore, it is crucial to carefully weigh the potential risks and benefits of chemical methods and take other strategies into consideration that are more environmentally friendly and sustainable, such as phytoremediation or bioremediation.

Thermal methods 

There are two ways in which pollutants can be removed by the elimination of impurities through evaporation, either through direct heat transfer from hot air or an open flame or through indirect heat transfer, and the direct or indirect annihilation of the contaminants at an appropriate temperature. 


Glass and plastic can both be reduced in size. By lowering, both the byproduct of these things as well as the manufacturing cycle are decreased.


Planting trees and other plants in places with contaminated soil is known as reforestation, which is an effective method for reducing soil pollution. As they can aid in absorbing and storing harmful pollutants, enhancing soil structure and fertility, and fostering biodiversity, trees, and other plants play a critical role in the health of the soil and the operation of the ecosystem. The soil can be stabilized and erosion decreased by putting in trees and other plants, which can assist stop further contamination of neighboring water bodies. Additionally, through a process known as phytoremediation, trees, and other plants can assist in absorbing surplus nutrients and pollutants from the soil, including heavy metals and pesticides. Additional advantages of reforestation include lowering atmospheric carbon dioxide levels and enhancing air and water quality. Reforestation, as a whole, is a sustainable and cost-effective method for reducing soil pollution that can help revitalize degraded landscapes and advance long-term environmental health.


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Why is it critical to keep soil pollution under control?

Soil pollution affects agricultural yields and nutritional quality, contributing to the growing problem of food poverty. It is critical to maintain good soils in order to provide a wide availability of safe and nutritious food.

What is soil pollution and its effects?

soil pollution can be defined as the presence of harmful compounds (also known as pollutants or contaminants) in the soil in quantities high enough to endanger human health, and the ecosystem.

What are the 3 main sources of soil pollution?

The 3 main sources of soil pollution are
1. Pesticides and insecticides are overused in agriculture, resulting in soil degradation.
2. Soil pollution is caused by industrial chemical emissions from mining and industry.
3. Poor waste management or improper trash disposal results in solid waste soil contamination.

What is soil pollution short definition?

Soil pollution is defined as the contamination of soil with abnormally high amounts of harmful chemicals. It is a major environmental concern since it poses numerous health risks.

About the Author

Soumyadeep specializes in content creation for board exams, catering to the demands of CBSE, ICSE, and other state boards students. He has two years of experience in the education industry. He has a graduate degree in Zoology Honours, he delivers content across several domains, including CUET (UG and PG), NEET, JEE, and universities. 

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