Discover: Causes | What can you do?
Soil pollution is the destruction of the earth's thin layer of healthy, productive soil, where much of our food is grown. Without fertile soil, farmers could not grow enough food to support the world's people.
Healthy soil depends on bacteria, fungi, and small animals to break down wastes in the soil and release nutrients. These nutrients help plants grow. Fertilizers and pesticides can limit the ability of soil organisms to process wastes. As a result, farmers who overuse fertilizers and pesticides can destroy their soil's productivity.
A number of other human activities can also damage soil. The irrigation of soil in dry areas with poor drainage can leave water standing in fields. When this standing water evaporates, it leaves salt deposits behind, making the soil too salty for growing crops. Mining operations and smelters contaminate soil with toxic heavy metals. Many scientists believe acid rain can also reduce soil fertility. Over farming can drain the soil so that it becomes difficult for things to grow in it.
What can you do?