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Soil Poisoning Pollution Facts
Soil pollution happens when the soil contaminants exceed a certain threshold reaching amounts (concentrations) that could pose a risk to human health and ecosystem or is simply above the natural background levels.
Soil act as a natural sink for contaminants, by accumulating and sometimes concentrating contaminants which end up in soil from various sources. Thus, over time, what may have started as tiny amounts can reach considerable concentrations depending on environmental conditions (including soil types) and degradability of the released contaminant and resulting in soil poisoning. For example, metals are not degradable and may accumulate and concentrate in surface soils over time. However, not all metals behave similarly. Few metals may leach to deeper soils especially if precipitation is high (e.g., arsenic), while many other metals will stick to surface soils being adsorbed to soil particles.
If the potential for repeated releases of non-degradable or less degradable contaminants exist (such as metals, PCBs, perchlorate) in a certain area (e.g., close to your home), it is always prudent to evaluate and test the soil for pollution through accumulation over longer time;
Home grown vegetables and fruits may become polluted too if the soil is polluted. This is because most of soil pollutants may be extracted by plants along with water. Thus, it is always prudent to test the soil before starting to grow anything edible. This is especially true if your garden is in an industrial or mining area or close (within 1 mile) of a main airport, harbor, landfill, or foundry. Please click the links on the home page for more details on each such facility. However, if you believe you have been exposed to pollutants through your home grown vegetables please contact environmental pollution centers.
It is prudent to test the soil before allowing your kids to play in the ground if you live in an industrialized area or mining area or close (within 1 mile) of a main airport, harbor, landfill, or foundry. At the least, soil should be tested for pH, various metals, PAHs, and pesticides/herbicides. However, if you believe that your kids has been exposed to soil toxicity (pollutants) in the past please contact environmental pollution centers.
The sources of soil pollution are not always in the close vicinity and could be located far from the polluted soil. In such situations pollutants are transported by wind (especially if they are in the form of fine dusts) or by groundwater and could travel long distances depending on their property and particle dimension. The smaller the particle and the more soluble and less reactive the pollutant, the higher is its potential to travel over longer distances and pollute soil far away from the release source. A typical soil pollution example is mercury (Hg) which was proven to travel very long distances by air and get deposed on the land hundreds of miles or more away, even polluting the arctic pole areas. PCBs or various other metals may also travel by dust especially if in very fine dust form (such as mine tailings). Because of this fact, it is always prudent to not assume that your garden is safe simply because you could not identify any local cause of soil pollution.
The bare soil generate a higher health risk as compared to vegetated soil. This is because the bare soil is more exposed to wind erosion and may generate poisoned dust (soil poisoning dirt or soil poisoning dust) that can enter homes, cover crops and vegetation and be directly inhaled by people. Additionally if soil is vegetated and regularly irrigated, there is less risk of pollutants accumulating and concentrating in that soil, although the risk for groundwater impact becomes higher in that case. In general, it is prudent to keep the lawn adjacent to your home well vegetated and irrigated in order to reduce any health risks from soil poison.
Soil pollution may generate health effects long after the original exposure occurred. This is due to cumulative effect of some pollutants if inhaled or otherwise uptaken in human body over long periods of time. Specifically, this is true in the case of pollutants which are intaken by our bodies and retained there instead of being eliminated. Such contaminants are known to bioaccumulate in human organisms (humans or animals alike). Examples of such contaminants are: organic salts of mercury (such as mono-di- or tri-methyl mercury) or PCBs (polychlorinated biphenils). This is why if you believe to have been exposed over small dose of soil poisoning over a long time, but just started developing symptoms or having been diagnosed with a related heath condition, please contact environmental pollution centers and your case will be evaluated as you may be entitled to compensation.
Poisoned soil may affect you through inhalation, direct skin contact, poisoned vegetables and fruits (if grown on the soil), as well as poisoned groundwater below the soil (if consumed).