Soil Pollution- Definition, Sources, Effects, Prevention and Control

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soil pollution


Soil is a very important environmental component for humans, animals, and plants. It is the basic medium for food, vegetation, and natural resources.

It is also the base for the development of human culture and civilization.

Soil pollution or degradation which results in the decrease of quality of soil is caused by soil erosion, a decrease in plant nutrients or soil microorganisms excess or deficit of moisture content, or high fluctuation of temperature.

Soil Pollution-

Definition of Soil Pollution-

”The contamination of soil with an excess of chemicals, fertilizers, insecticides, herbicides are known soil pollution.”

The decrease in the quality of soils either due to human activities or natural sources or by both is known as soil pollution or soil degradation.

Soil pollution is caused due to soil erosion, a decrease in plant nutrients, a decrease in soil microorganisms, excess or deficit of mixture content, and lack of human content.

Sources of Soil Pollution-

The sources are into five categories:

  1. Physical Sources
  2. Biological Sources
  3. Airborne Sources
  4. Urban and industrial Sources

1. Physical Sources:

Soil pollution causes due to physical sources such as Soil erosion, and volcanic eruption.

2. Biological Sources:

Soil pollution causes due to biological sources such as microorganisms, bacteria, and protozoa.

3. Airborne Sources:

Soil pollution causes due to airborne sources such as Thermal power plants, industry, and factory waste products.

4. Urban and industrial Sources:

Urban wastes degrade the properties, and urban sewage pollutes the soil.

Major Sources of Soil Pollution-

The major sources of soil pollution are-

  • The accelerated rate of soil erosion
  • Soil eruption
  • Deforestation
  • Excessive use of chemical fertilizers,
  • pesticide,
  • Insecticides,
  • Polluted wastewater from industries areas
  • Forest fires
  • Few macro-organisms
  • Dumping of urban and industrial wastes
  • Waterlogging and related capillary processes
  • Treating process
  • Drought etc.

Also, Air and water pollutants are responsible for the degradation.

Now, Let’s look at the types of waste to better understand soil pollution.

Types of Waste-

There are mainly six types of waste which contribute to soil pollution and these are-

  1. Soil Waste
  2. Hospital Solid Waste
  3. Radioactive Waste
  4. Households Waste
  5. Agricultural Waste
  6. Animal and Human Waste

1. Soil Waste-

Solid waste is unwanted useless solid materials generated from human activities in residential industrial commercial areas.

It may categorize their ways according to their-

  • Origin (domestic, industrial, commercial construction institutional)
  • Contents (organic materials, glass, metal, plastic, paper, etc.)
  • Hazard potential (toxic, non-toxic, flammable, radioactive, infectious, etc.)

Solid waste management reduces and eliminates the adverse impact on the environment and human health.

A number of processes are involved in effectively managing waste for municipalities. These are monitoring, collection, transport, processing, recycling, and disposal.

The quantum of waste generated varies mainly due to different lifestyles.

Solid waste substances are those materials that become useless and hence waste after a short period of use such as newspapers, bottles, plastic begs, polythene, packing material, and garbage.

Solid wastes are discarded after their use. The environmental pollution caused by these solid wastes which are increasing with the rapid rate of urbanization and industrial development.

The main problem is the disposal of waste. 

2. Hospital Solid Waste-

Hospital is the most complex human organization which gives waste substances. They produce different kinds of waste so they present challenges to professional medical waste managers.

Large activities often produce problem waste regardless of their primary activity and hospital end up making hazardous waste.

Waste management hospitals overlap with safety and hospital probably has safety procedures in place and many have infection control officer whose job is to worry about the spread of disease.

Flammable gases liquids, radiation sources, poisonous and cytotoxic medicine, cleaning chemicals, and physical objects pose piercing threats and crushing threats.

Most wastes produced by hospitals are specially regulated waste and do not differ substantially from the waste produced.  The toilets and showers from hospitals drain the municipal sewage system.

3. Radioactive Waste-

Waste that is radioactive must be stored in secure containers with the radiation symbol on it care waste that is radioactive is classified as “low-level radioactive waste“.

It is ultimately in a seat landfill for disposal. This treatment usually does not happen at the hospital.

4. Households Waste-

Households waste is linked to municipal solid waste. Municipal solid waste consists of household waste, construction and demolition debris, sanitation residue, and waste from streets.

This garbage is generated mainly from residential and commercial complexes. With rising urbanization and change in lifestyle and food habits and the amount of household waste has been increasing rapidly and its composition changing.

Household solid waste is in the form of food leftovers and plastics which contributed between 15% and 18% organic matter forms the larger part of household solid waste.

The term residual waste relates to wastes left from household sources containing materials that have not been separated out.

Classification of Households Waste-

Household waste can be classified in several ways:

  1. Biodegradable waste
  2. Recyclable materials
  3. Inert waste
  4. Electrical and Electronic waste
  5. Composite wastes
A. Biodegradable Waste-

Biodegradable waste such as Food and kitchen waste, green waste, and paper (Most of them can be recycled).

B. Recyclable Materials-

Recyclable materials such as Paper, cardboard, glass bottles, jars, tin cans, aluminum cans, aluminum foil, metals, certain plastics, textiles, clothing, batteries, etc.

C. Inert Waste-

Inert waste such as Construction and demolition waste, dirt, rocks, and debris.

D. Electrical and Electronics Waste-

Electrical and electronic waste such as electrical appliances, light bulbs, washing machines, and TVs. computers, screens, mobile phones, alarm clocks, watches, etc.

E. Composite Waste-

Composite wastes such as Waste clothing, tetra pack food and drink cartoons, and waste plastics such as toys.

5. Agricultural Waste-

Agricultural waste defines as unwanted waste produced as a result of agricultural activities such as manure, oil, silage plastic, fertilizer, pesticides and herbicides, wastes from farms, poultry houses and slaughterhouses, and veterinary medicines.

Pesticides and herbicides are used to control pests when persistently applied resulting being accumulate soil.

Most pesticides and fertilizers are water soluble and leach and enter into water body well enter into food products.

This can cause serious health diseases in humans. Pesticides can also non-targeted plants, birds, and other wildlife and have a large impact on the quality and fertility of the soil.

Some fungicides also contain mercury which has a negative impact on the functioning of the nervous system and also affects the kidneys.

Fertilizers are the main source of agricultural waste because they contain nutritive minerals including nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium which help plants grow but when released into the open environment when rainfall spreads fertilizers into rivers lead to the aquatic environment.

Agricultural wastes are non-product outputs production and processing agricultural products that may contain material that benefit man but whose economic values are less than the cost of collection, transportation, and processing for beneficial use.

Agricultural waste arising are rare they generally thought the total waste matter of the developed world.

Agricultural development is usually accompanied by wastes from the irrational application of intensive farming.

Agricultural waste has toxicity potential for plants, animals, and humans through many direct and indirect channels.

6. Animal and Human Waste-

Human waste refers to waste products of the human digestive system and the human metabolism namely feces and urine. Sanitation system that is placed, human waste collected, treated, and disposed of.

The sanitation system place differs vastly across the world with many people in developing countries having to resort open defection where human waste is deposited in the environment.

Children’s excreta can be disposed of in diapers and mixed with municipal solid waste. Diapers are also sometimes dumped directly into the environment leading to public health.

The term “human waste” is used in the general media to mean several things sewage sludge and black water fact anything that may contain some human feces. For example, dry toilets collect human waste without the addition of water.

Human waste is considered biowaste as it is the vector for both viral and bacterial diseases. It can be a serious health hazard if gets into sources of drinking water.

The world health organization (WHO) reports that nearly 2.2 million people die annually from diseases caused by contaminated water.

Even high mountains are not free from human waste. Each year millions of mountaineers visit high mountain areas.

Effects of Solid Waste Pollution-

Solid wastes heap up on the roads due to improper disposal systems. People clean their own houses and litter their immediate surroundings which affect the community including themselves.

This type of dumping allows biodegradable materials to decompose under uncontrolled and unhygienic conditions.

This produces foul small and breeds various types of insects and infectious organisms besides spoiling the aesthetics of the site. Industrial solid wastes are sources of toxic metals and hazards.

Wastes may spread on land and can cause changes in physicochemical and biological characteristics thereby affecting the productivity of soils.

Toxic substances may leach percolate to contaminate the groundwater. In refuse mixing the hazardous wastes are mixed with garbage and other combustible wastes. This makes segregation and disposal all the more difficult and risky.

Various types of wastes like cans, pesticides, cleaning solvents, batteries, and radioactive materials. plastics and e-waste are mixed up with paper scraps and other non-toxic materials which could be recycled.

Burning off some of these materials produces dioxins, furans, and polychlorinated biphenyls which have the potential to cause various types of ailments including cancer.

Various Effects of Solid waste-

  • Solid waste change the properties of soil, air, and water causing pollution,
  • Solid waste produces a foul smell, and breeds insects and organisms, Leading to the spread of many diseases inflections, etc affecting human and animal populations.
  • Harmful chemicals are released into the environment.
  • The common effect of solid waste management is the failure to eliminate pathogenic agents. The failure to immobilize heavy metals by landfill contractors and operators on the basis of waste is also another effect.
  • Solid waste affects our lakes, rivers, and oceans.


  • A breeding place for disease vectors.
  • Noxious smell.
  • Death to aquatic flora and fauna.
  • Ground water contamination.


  • Heavy load on water treatment infrastructure.
  • Floods due to clogging of waterways.
  • Contamination of food crops irrigated with this water.


  • Increased mortality of ocean-dwelling fish mammals and birds.
  • Choking of coral reefs and coastlines.

Prevention and Control of Soil Pollution-

The prevention and control of soil pollution can be done through the DISPOSAL OF SOLID WASTE.

Solid waste disposal, is the disposal of normally solid or semi-solid materials, resulting from human and animal activities that are useless, unwanted, or hazardous.

And they are-

  • Garbage
  • Rubbish
  • Sewage-treatment solids 
  • Ashes
  • Mining wastes 
  • Dead animals

Waste disposal includes the activities and actions required to manage waste from its inception to its final disposal.

This includes the collection, transport, treatment, and disposal of waste together with monitoring.

Waste can be solid, liquid, or gas and each type have different methods of disposal management.

Method of Solid Waste Disposal-

Solid waste disposal methods are given below:

  1. Composting
  2. Vermicomposting
  3. Incineration
  4. Sanitary landfilling
  5. Shredding and pulverization
  6. Barging it out into the sea

1. Composting-

Composting as defined earlier is a process in which organic matter of solid waste is decomposed and converted to humans and stable mineral compounds.

Method of Composting-

There are three methods of compositing:

  1. Composting by trenching
  2. Open window composting
  3. Mechanical composting

2. Vermi-Composting-

  • Composting using various worms
  • Manages biodegradable waste 
  • Highly economical

3. Incineration-

Burning of refuse at high temperatures in furnaces is called incineration.

4. Sanitary land Filling-

A method of disposing of solid waste on land without creating nuisances or hazards to public health or safety.

5. Shredding and Pulverisation-

The size and volume reduction of MSW are accomplished by the physical process of shredding and pulverization.

  • Shredding refers to the action of cutting and tearing.
  • Pulverisation refers to the action of crushing and grinding.

6. Barging it out into the sea-

This method had been used in the past to dispose off refuse by throwing it away into the sea after carrying it at a reasonable distance from the coast on barges.

The sea depth of such a disposal point should not be less than 30 km or so and the direction of the current should be as hot as to bring it back towards the shore.


Wrapping Up-

That’s all I have for Soil Pollution. If Something is missed, Let me know in the comment section below.

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Till then take care of yourself and your loved ones.

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