Soil Pollution

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Soil is the thin layer of organic and inorganic materials that covers the Earth's rocky surface. The organic portion, which is derived from the decayed remains of plants and animals, is concentrated in the dark uppermost topsoil. The inorganic portion made up of rock fragments, was formed over thousands of years by physical and chemical weathering of bedrock. Productive soils are necessary for agriculture to supply the world with sufficient food. A soil pollutant is any factor which deteriorates the quality, texture and mineral content of the soil or which disturbs the biological balance of the organisms in the soil. Pollution in soil has adverse effect on plant growth. The introduction of substances, biological organisms, or energy into the soil, resulting in a change of the soil quality, which is likely to affect the normal use of the soil or endangering public health and the living environment. Soil contaminants are spilled onto the surface through many different activities. Most of these are the result of accidents involving the vehicles that are transporting waste material from site of origin to a disposal site. Soil pollution is particularly dangerous for the environment and our health because soil, either in the mountains and in the plains, contains the largest part of the water we drink and produces all the food we need. There are many types of soil pollution, each one with its own features and preventive measures to avoid disasters.


Indiscriminate use of fertilizers
Soil nutrients are important for plant growth and development. Plants obtain carbon, hydrogen and oxygen from air and water. But other necessary nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium, sulfur and more must be obtained from the soil. Farmers generally use fertilizers to correct soil deficiencies. Fertilizers contaminate the soil with impurities, which come from the raw materials used for their manufacture. Mixed fertilizers often contain ammonium nitrate (NH4NO3), phosphorus as P2O5, and potassium as K2O. For instance, As, Pb and Cd present in traces in rock phosphate mineral get transferred to super phosphate fertilizer. Since the metals are not degradable, their accumulation in the soil above their toxic levels due to excessive use of phosphate fertilizers, becomes an indestructible poison for crops. The over use of NPK fertilizers reduce quantity of vegetables and crops grown on soil over the years. It also reduces the protein content of wheat, maize, grams, etc., grown on that soil. The carbohydrate quality of such crops also gets degraded. Excess potassium content in soil decreases Vitamin C and carotene content in vegetables and fruits. The vegetables and fruits grown on over-fertilized soil are more prone to attacks by insects and disease.

Indiscriminate use of pesticides, insecticides and herbicides Plants on which we depend for food are under attack from insects, fungi, bacteria, viruses, rodents and other animals, and must compete with weeds for nutrients. To kill unwanted populations living in or on their crops, farmers use pesticides. The first widespread insecticide use began at the end of World War II and included DDT (dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane) and gammaxene. Insects soon became resistant to DDT and as the chemical did not decompose readily, it persisted in the environment. Since it was soluble in fat rather than water, it biomagnified up the food chain and disrupted calcium metabolism in birds, causing eggshells to be thin and fragile. As a result, large birds of prey such as the brown pelican, ospreys, falcons and eagles became endangered. DDT has been now been banned in most western countries. Ironically many of them including USA, still produce DDT for export to other developing nations whose...
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