Soil pollution occurs when there is a build-up of persistent toxic compounds, salts, radioactive materials, chemicals or disease-causing agents in the soil which affect human, animal and plant health. Soil pollution is mainly a result of human activity, such as the application of pesticides like Atrazine, which is a popular weedkiller, and the generation of unwanted industrial waste like arsenic. Soil pollution changes the composition of the soil and creates a pathogenic soil environment, leading to the spread of diseases.
Pesticides, benzene, chromium and weed killers are carcinogens which have been established to lead to all kinds of cancer. Long-term benzene exposure is responsible for irregular menstrual cycles in women, leukemia and anemia. A high level of exposure to benzene is fatal. Benzene is a liquid chemical found in crude oil, gasoline and cigarette smoke. It is used in chemical synthesis and interferes with cellular function by decreasing the production of red blood cells, white blood cells and antibodies, thereby compromising the body’s immunity.
Kidney and Liver Disease
People develop kidney damage when they are exposed to soil which has been contaminated with lead. Soil pollutants like mercury and cyclodienes also greatly increase the possibility of developing irreversible kidney damage. Cyclodienes and PCBs cause toxicity in the liver, as well. This situation is worse for impoverished people who are forced by strained circumstances to live near dump sites, industrial factories and landfills, where they are exposed to soil pollution on a daily basis. They develop impaired immune systems, kidney damage and liver damage, in addition to neurological damage and lung problems.
Brain and Nerve Damage
Children can be exposed to the harmful effects of soil pollution in places like playgrounds and parks, where lead-contaminated soil has been proven to cause brain and neuromuscular development problems.
Contaminated water or raw sewage may mix with soil in areas where the rainfall is usually heavy, such as in the tropics. The protozoa that cause malaria and the mosquitoes that act as carriers thrive in such conditions; the resulting increased propagation of both the protozoa and the mosquitoes leads to frequent outbreaks of malaria.
Cholera and Dysentry
Soil pollution is closely linked to water pollution, because when the soil is contaminated, it leaches into surface and ground water, leading to the contamination of drinking water and an outbreak of water-borne diseases like cholera and dysentery.