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Common Soil Contamination Warning Signs

Soil Contamination Warning Signs

Soil contamination poses dangers to both human life and the environment. It is made worse when waste is improperly disposed of through negligent and unlawful waste management practices. 

It’s important to understand the signs of contaminated soil. There are a number of common signs that anyone can read.

Many of these signs are intuitive as they relate to general signs of waste and decay. If the soil has paint chips in it, for instance, then one can assume that it is contaminated. Similarly, if soil has a rancid smell, it is possibly contaminated.

What Causes Soil Contamination?

Soil contamination occurs when anything unnatural mixes with ground soil. 

Waste can contaminate soil in many ways. Toxins in waste can break down and seep into groundwater, and chemical liquids from industrial waste can be illegally dumped. 

It’s important to note that this definition focuses on the inclusion of unnatural materials. This is because soil can contain toxic elements without being contaminated. 

Note that organic chemicals can cause contamination, but this is rare. An excellent example of this is the level of arsenic found in most soil. Even though this chemical poses a threat to human life, its levels of toxicity have low concentrations. If the levels are low, it is deemed natural and uncontaminated.

Toxins that occur naturally in soil are not seen as a contaminant because natural systems are capable of regulating themselves. Healthy soil functions with many natural toxins.

Soil contamination is only caused when chemicals and other hazardous toxins are placed there through human interaction. We are the ones responsible for climate change, and no one but us can work to manage soil contamination. 

Understanding Soil Contamination

Understanding how to identify contaminated soil is about protecting human life and protecting the environment from climate change. Luckily, there are several common warning signs of contaminated soil. 

However, it should be noted that this list is not exhaustive. Additionally, contaminated soil can present no warning signs at all. If you feel that soil is contaminated, it is essential to contact a professional waste management service to conduct a full risk assessment.

Contaminated land can have health consequences for food safety, plant uptake, and drinking water. It can also cause skin and eye irritation, in addition to other human health issues. Elevated levels of any toxin that cause adverse health effects on humans require further investigation if these signs are present.

Reasons for Soil Contamination

Soil contamination can be caused by several things. Generally, if any chemical is added to soil, it is considered contaminated. 

Here are several common causes of soil contamination:

  • Manufacturing plants nearby
  • Industrial Dumping
  • Local Waste Disposal
  • Excessive use of Pesticide or Fertiliser 
  • Oil Leaks from Cars
  • Casual Littering by Human Beings
  • Microplastics

It’s no wonder soil contamination is such a risk. Almost everything that comes into contact with it can contaminate it!

Given this, it is essential to know the warning signs of soil contamination. 

Surface soils near commonly contaminated land, such as landfills and dumpsites, can contain many contaminants. Heavy metals like lead can leak from these sights. This can lead to contaminated water to form.

Further assessment of any potentially contaminated site should be done regularly. Soil properties are the only surefire way to assess exposure to contaminants.

Common Soil Contaminants

Common soil contaminants include many toxic substances. Contaminated land is generally found in both industrial and urban areas. While each contributes to environmental pollution, neither does so in precisely the same way.

Some industrial processes, like the use of pesticides on certain types of crops, adversely affect soil health. These contaminants harm soil and groundwater and pose a significant public health risk. 

The construction of infrastructure, like roads, can contaminate nearby soil. 

Soil Contamination Warning Signs

Identifying contaminated soil through common warning signs is relatively easy. 

They are commonly found in areas where waste pollution is expected, like landfills and dumpsites.

  • Off-coloured soil. This one’s a no-brainer. If the soil looks different from the rest of the soil around it, then it can be contaminated. It’s best to stay away from things that don’t look right.
  • Bad Smells. Again, this is a fairly obvious sign of pollution that humans would struggle to miss. Human evolution has made us hesitant to go near things that smell off or wrong, and contaminated soil is an excellent example of why. 
  • No Animals. Like humans, animals have a good sense of avoiding specific environments. If, for some reason, you don’t see or smell contaminated soil, look around for other animals. If there are only humans in the area, chances are that our animal friends know something we don’t. 
  • Few to Zero Plants. Contaminated soil hurts the plant environment. Its soil can be stripped of nutrients, making it difficult or impossible for plants to grow. If no plants are growing in an area where it is reasonable to assume that plants should grow, the soil is probably contaminated.
  • Erosion. Soil erosion can be caused by several factors, from natural disasters to human environmental destruction. It can also be caused by soil contamination. Usually, it is a later sign, as the soil has already been stripped of the plant and animal life that kept it healthy and able to self-regulate. 
  • Visible Plastics. This is another no-brainer. If you can see tiny bits of plastic or other types of waste, the soil is likely contaminated. 

Did you notice that many of these warning signs are self-evident? We can tell when something is contaminated by looking at signs of decay or rot.

This is no real accident. Contaminated soils have many of the signs of death and decay that primal humans sought to avoid. Over time, this evolutionary survival tactic has remained in humans. 

Like our desire to be housed, clean, and fed, humans have senses which can tell us many of the signs of soil contamination. 

But they work only some of the time. Many of the early warning signs of soil contamination can go unnoticed. For this reason, you must hire a professional to assess any soil that might be contaminated.

What Does Contaminated Soil Smell Like?

Soil pollution causes contamination that smells like rot, mould, chemicals, and other signs of decay.

What Chemicals Are Common in Contaminated Soil?

The Soil Science Society of America notes that pesticides, petroleum products, radon, asbestos, lead, chromated copper arsenate and creosote are common in most polluted soil. 

Will Contaminated Soil Affect Plants?

Yes, contaminated soil can negatively affect your plants and grass. It can severely damage a plant’s root system. Garden soil needs to be healthy for plants to grow.

Can I have Vegetables grown in contaminated soils?

Any food grown in, on, or near contaminated soils can be dangerous to human health. Contaminate land can contain heavy metals in high concentrations and other hazardous contaminants.

What diseases can contaminated soil cause?

According to the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine, contaminated soil can cause botulism, tetanus, anthrax, gastrointestinal diseases, and various respiratory failures. There are many human health risks associated with contaminated soil.