Land Pollution: Causes, Effects and How We Can Repair The Damage
Climate change is a very serious issue in today’s society. There are many things that factor into climate change. Carbon emissions, the leaking of chemicals, excess elements throwing off the balance of the ecosystems, and much more. There are three areas of our Earth that are causing global warming. Air, water, and land. However, a lot of the water and some air pollution comes from land pollution. What kinds of things are polluting our land and how can we stop it.
What is land pollution? An easy definition of land pollution, provided by Land Pollution Eschooltoday, is “the deterioration (destruction) of the Earth’s land surfaces, often directly or indirectly as a result of man’s activities and their misuse of land resources.” This is when humans either dispose of waste improperly, use chemicals on the Earth, or when an accident occurs that results in a spill of pollutants into the land. However, many people give land pollution a pass because it can sometimes be hard to see the physical results of it. With air and water, it is fairly easy to see the results of pollution. You can see trash and oil floating on the surface of the oceans and dead marine life. Pollution in the air is very obvious, seeing factory smoke rising into the air, smog hanging over cities. But with land pollution, it can be harder because the effects happen underneath the ground and in the chemical balance of the ecosystems. Nevertheless, it is a growing problem that needs to be aware of.
Causes of Land Pollution
Soil pollution includes any contaminants or chemicals that harm the animals or plant species. These pollutants degrade the quality of the soil, create an imbalance within the natural systems, and can also lead to erosion. The causes of pollution can be characterized by their source. As well as the effect it has on the ecosystems.
Pollution From Farmers
Agricultural pollution is a biggie. Many of the (unfortunately) standard processes of farms contribute greatly to soil pollution. Many mass farmers use chemical fertilizers or nitrogen rich fertilizers that promote crop growth by supplying them with extra nutrients. Now, this might not sound too bad. However, you should know that the Earth already has the perfect amount of elements and nutrients needed. So, when these nutrient rich fertilizers are used, the excess elements like nitrogen are introduced into the soil and mess with the natural balance. Also anything chemical is never good in the long term.
Speaking about chemicals, along with fertilizers, farmers also use pesticides and insecticides. These are so crop destroying bugs and pests are kept away. Again, sounds good for the crops right? Wrong. Remember, chemicals equal bad for everything. Those chemicals seep into the soil and into the crops. We then eat those same chemicals and can mess with our insides. Those chemicals that end up in the soil can also run off into nearby water supplies and pollute the water even more than it already is.
Pollution From Cities
Activities of humans can increase land pollution basically every day, either directly or indirectly. During construction, not only to the vehicles create a lot of air pollution, but the paving and other development prevents proper drainage and increases runoff. This spreads the pollutants used in construction to nearby water sources and lands.
Trash is one of the biggest sources of land pollution. The normal process for waste disposal is that all trash that is picked up, gets dumped at a designated site or a landfill. These landfills are filled with a number of different kinds of waste. Organic, inorganic, plastics, metals, chemicals, you name it. According to the 2014 Factsheet by the EPA, the average person produces 4.4 pounds of waste, of which 2.3 pounds ends up in landfills every day. These landfills are dangerous for the air, water, and land. As the waste decomposes, some of the waste can produce gases that are released into the air.
Other waste will release chemicals into the soil as it decomposes. While most organic waste will decompose in a matter of weeks, inorganic materials like plastic and styrofoam can take over a million years to disappear. All the while creating more and more pollution in the atmosphere and soil.
Pollution from Industries/Factories
Industries are a blight on our environment. Besides creating excess air pollution, their waste disposal, or lack thereof, greatly pollutes the land and in turn, the water. Most factories and industries use many chemicals in the manufacturing of their specific product. These chemicals usually get disposed of along with the rest of the regular waste. Many times, this waste is disposed of improperly. Those chemicals can contaminate the soil and have drastic effects on the surrounding ecosystems.
Even when this waste is disposed of properly and gets sent to the local landfill, the decomposition of this waste can release toxic gases that can harm nearby neighborhoods. Those gases contain chemicals that can find their way back into the soil in the form of acid rain which needs no introduction. The name basically says it all. Acid rain can damage the soil and contributes to overall erosion. And of course, any chemicals that end up in the soil can run off into the water.
Trees are essential to life. Not only do they produce oxygen that humans and animals breathe, they also absorb carbon dioxide. Trees also provide wood for humans to build and is the habitat for many animals. So when we chop down the forests to make room for developments, farm land, etc. it yields bad results. The lack of forests leads to excess carbon dioxide in our atmosphere. In an indirect way, deforestation leads to more land pollution. Whatever is built on the now free land, will without a doubt create pollutants. If it is a new city development, pollution from construction can run off into the soils and water sources. If it is farmland, odds are that pesticides and other fertilizers will be used which, as said before, greatly pollutes the soil.
Effects of Land Pollution
The causes of land pollution can have drastic consequences, especially when looking at the survival of animals, humans, the quality of the soil and even the water. Human activities have gradually destroyed and degraded the land, causing diseases to humans and animals, reducing the ability to support the surrounding ecosystems and their numerous species. Land pollution, without a doubt, has many long lasting effects.
Many wastes that end up in landfills decompose and can release harmful chemicals into the soil. Those chemicals can affect the health of humans greatly. Plastic waste can contain acrylic, polyvinyl, chloride, polycarbonate, and phthalates. These substances are associated with cancers, skin diseases, respiratory problems, and even birth defect for women who are pregnant.
Other wastes like pharmaceuticals, pesticides, fertilizer contain dangerous chemicals. These can be cyanide, arsenic, asbestos, mercury, and chromium. These have many cancer causing elements and can also lead to lung and kidney disease as well as liver damage.
Batteries are a big problem as many do not get disposed of properly and are thrown away with the rest of the trash. Some batteries, called NiCads, contain a chemical called cadmium. When batteries degrade, this chemical can leak from the containment. This heavy metal can contaminate the soil and enter the water systems, which eventually finds its way into the food chain. It ends up in plants, fish and other animals which means it ends up in humans when we eat those animals and vegetables. Increased levels of this dangerous toxin over time can cause damage to the liver, kidneys and can also affect the bone metabolism process creating fragile bones. Cadmium is also a carcinogenic, which means it can cause cancer.
With the increase in agricultural sites and industries, you will also see more landfills being created to deal with the increase in waste. Landfills become contaminated with numerous chemicals and other pollutants that find their way into the soil. From there, they run off into the water or nearby soils. As a result, those chemicals end up in our food. In addition, those chemicals also affect every single ecosystem that they enter, causing an imbalance. This could result in the destruction of certain species.
Air and Water Pollution
With waste degrading in landfills, plastics and other inorganic materials release toxic gases. These gases include methane, carbon dioxide, nitrogen, ammonia, and hydrogen. Methane and carbon dioxide makes up 90 and 98% of gas emissions from landfills. These gases enter our atmosphere and join the other emissions from other sources.
Pollutants in the soil, as said before, usually find a way into nearby water supplies by means of rainwater runoff. Pollutants such as pesticides and fertilizers are especially damaging. The contaminated water can also be evaporated which then pollutes the land further in the form of acid rain.
Soil Erosion and Degradation
The numerous pollutants that enter the soil can have many long lasting effects on the land. One of the most serious effects is erosion. Erosion is the sweeping away of the topsoil by the actions of the wind, water, ice or just gravity. Even though some erosion is necessary, land pollution is causing an increase in this. Erosion leads to the loss of organic matter and nutrients from the soil. This causes the land to lose its original soil structure and its ability to support plant life, which can result in a reduction in crop production.
Desertification is another result of dryland degradation. This is when arid soil becomes barren and unable to support plant life. Intense growth of population on fragile drylands can create a lot of pressure on the land to support the new life. Such pressure includes producing enough food to sustain the population. This can lead to overgrazing and over-cultivation. This can deplete the nutrients of the land at a faster rate than the ecosystem can replicate them. Thus the loss of vegetation leads to further soil erosion because there is nothing to hold the soil in place.
Solutions to Soil Pollution
It may seem like a big problem to tackle but it is possible to complete in a few ways. It helps to know exactly what causes land pollution. This way you can try to avoid those practices or those products.
REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE
By reducing waste, we can lessen the use and size of landfills which create a lot of overall pollution. Plastic products can take many years to completely decompose. Instead of throwing them away, simply reuse them. Save plastic bags to use at a later time. Same goes for plastic bottles, which can also save a lot of money. When it is time to dispose of those items, recycle them instead of throwing them away with the rest of the trash. This way, it ensures proper disposal and does not end up in a landfill. It is possible to recycle this material and make it into something new. You can also recycle metals, batteries, and many other inorganic materials.
Mass farms create a lot of different kinds of pollution including methane and carbon emissions, and chemical pollution of the soil and waters. Not to mention the horrible conditions in which the animals live in. By buying organic from local farms and markets, we can start to get away from our dependence on factory farms. Eating organic foods is also much better for your health as farmers make produce the food without pesticides, antibiotics and other chemicals.
In terms of repairing the damage already done, there is a practice that many companies use. This is called bioremediation. This is done by introducing nutrients and bacteria into the soil or water that helps to clear away the pollutants that currently reside in the specific ecosystem. Even Mother Nature needs help sometimes. Instead of using chemicals that can further harm the Earth, why not use what is already available.