Friday, October 30, 2020 | ePaper

Soil Pollution Affecting The Environment A Lot

Md. Arafat Rahman

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Our soil is contaminated by the presence of chemicals or other alteration in the natural soil environment. It is typically caused by industrial activity, agricultural chemicals or improper disposal of waste. The most common chemicals involved are petroleum hydrocarbons, polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons, solvents, pesticides, lead, and other heavy metals. Contamination is correlated with the degree of industrialization and intensity of chemical substance.
Soil pollution can be caused by micro plastics, oil spills, mining and activities by other heavy industries, accidental spills may happen during activities, corrosion of underground storage tanks, acid rain, intensive farming, and agrochemicals such as pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers, petrochemicals, industrial accidents, road debris, drainage of contaminated surface water into the soil, ammunitions, chemical agents, and other agents of war, waste disposal, oil and fuel dumping, nuclear wastes, direct discharge of industrial wastes to the soil, discharge of sewage, landfill and illegal dumping, coal ash and electronic waste. Any activity that leads to other forms of soil degradation (erosion, compaction, etc.) may indirectly worsen the contamination effects in that soil remediation becomes more tedious.
The concern over soil contamination stems primarily from health risks, from direct contact with the contaminated soil, vapours from the contaminants, or from secondary contamination of water supplies within and underlying the soil. Mapping of contaminated soil sites and the resulting cleanups are time-consuming and expensive tasks, requiring extensive amounts of geology, hydrology, chemistry, computer modeling skills, and GIS in Environmental Contamination, as well as an appreciation of the history of industrial chemistry.
Health consequences from exposure to soil contamination greatly vary depending on pollutant type, pathway of attack and vulnerability of the exposed population. Chronic exposure to chromium, lead and other metals, petroleum, solvents, and many pesticide and herbicide formulations can be carcinogenic, can cause congenital disorders, or can cause other chronic health conditions. Industrial or man-made concentrations of naturally occurring substances, such as nitrate and ammonia associated with livestock manure from agricultural operations, have also been identified as health hazards in soil and groundwater.
Soil contaminants can have significant deleterious consequences for ecosystems. There are radical soil chemistry changes which can arise from the presence of many hazardous chemicals even at low concentration of the contaminant species. These changes can manifest in the alteration of metabolism of endemic microorganisms and arthropods resident in a given soil environment. The result can be virtual eradication of some of the primary food chain, which in turn could have major consequences for predator or consumer species. Many of these effects are now well known, such as the concentration of persistent DDT materials for avian consumers, leading to weakening of egg shells, increased chick mortality and potential extinction of species.
Chronic exposure to benzene at sufficient concentrations is known to be associated with higher incidence of leukemia. Mercury and cyclodienes are known to induce higher incidences of kidney damage and some irreversible diseases. PCBs and cyclodienes are linked to liver toxicity. Organophosphates and carbonates can induce a chain of responses leading to neuromuscular blockage. Many chlorinated solvents induce liver changes, kidney changes and depression of the central nervous system. There is an entire spectrum of further health effects such as headache, nausea, fatigue, eye irritation and skin rash for the above cited and other chemicals. At sufficient dosages a large number of soil contaminants can cause death by exposure via direct contact, inhalation or ingestion of contaminants in groundwater contaminated through soil.
Effects occur to agricultural lands which have certain types of soil contamination. Contaminants typically alter plant metabolism, often causing a reduction in crop yields. This has a secondary effect upon soil conservation, since the languishing crops cannot shield the Earth's soil from erosion. Some of these chemical contaminants have long half-lives and in other cases derivative chemicals are formed from decay of primary soil contaminants.
In some extremely rare processes, some pollutants are naturally accumulated in soils. This can occur due to the differential deposition of soil by the atmosphere. Another manner in which this type of soil pollution can occur is via the transportation of soil pollutants with precipitation water. An example of natural soil pollution is the accumulation of compounds containing the per chlorate anion in some dry, arid ecosystems. It is important to note that some contaminants can be naturally produced in the soil under the effect of certain environmental conditions. For example, per chlorates can be formed in soils containing chlorine and certain metals during a thunderstorm.
Cleanup or environmental remediation is analyzed by environmental scientists who utilize field measurement of soil chemicals and also apply computer models for analyzing transport and fate of soil chemicals. Various technologies have been developed for remediation of oil-contaminated soil and sediments. There are several principal strategies for remediation. We must aware of that.

(Mr. Arafat is Asst. Officer, Career & Professional Development Services Department, Southeast University. E-mail: arafat.bcpr@seu.edu.bd)

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