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It's Not All Dirt: Soil Contamination

1023 words - 5 pages

As a kid, I made the mistake of playing in the sandbox at my school. I was not aware that there were other chemicals inside the sandbox besides sand. I found out that there were chemicals in the sand only after I got a large, painful rash. Unlike pollution in rivers and the air, soil contamination is not easily detected. A person cannot detect this with the naked eye. And because of this, many people worldwide have suffered complications due to the contamination of soil. Soil contamination is a serious and often overlooked environmental concern that threatens the safety of the environment and those affected by it.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), soil contamination happens when solid or liquid matter that is hazardous enters soil from the earth. These substances can either become physically or chemically attached to soil particles or trapped between soil particles. It is possible for these contaminants to enter the soil in many ways. They can be spilled or buried into the soil. Chemicals from a smokestack can enter the soil or water that is polluted may flow over soil. Chemicals can also seep into the soil from factories, mines, and smelters.

In one instance in the 1960s, chemicals from Japanese mines were discovered to be the culprits of soil contamination. In Jinzu River Basin, a mysterious disease that softened the bones of rural inhabitants was on the rise. The disease was later discovered to be from cadmium from the local mines. This metal leached into soil where rice was being grown and when the inhabitants ate the rice they became sick. While cadmium is good for soldering, making compounds, and creating batteries, it is not good for human consumption because it is a poison.

Christina Larson writes that today China is hoping to learn from this case of soil contamination in Japan. Today, it is estimated that almost half of China’s provinces and administrative zones have soil that contain high levels of hazardous chemicals such as lead and arsenic. Lead has many uses and are proponents of ceramic, glass, batteries, and ammunition. Arsenic is used in the making of glass, preservation of wood, and even fattening of livestock. However both lead and arsenic can be toxic when ingested. Many of China’s industrial zones are severely impacted and crops that are grown around these zones can become contaminated. Chen Nengchang who is a scientist at Guangdong Institute of Eco-environmental and Soil Sciences believes that, “If we eat contaminated foods, it can cause damage to the kidneys, liver, and other organs. In children, there can be developmental problems”(3). Contaminated soil poses a great risk to human health because it can make the food we eat unsafe and lead to serious health complications.

There are many other ways that contaminated soil can adversely affect human health. Some substances found in soil can be absorbed by contact with our skin. The harmful chemicals in soil can enter the air...

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