Research Paper Sample: History of Soil Pollution in U.S

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Middlebury College
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Research paper
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Human activities contribute a large percentage in soil pollution which is a form of land degradation. In the United States, the issue of soil pollution is well known. After World War II, most of the industries in the U.S started manufacturing and using plastics and inorganic pesticides. These substances are toxic when exposed to the soil since they are non-biodegradable. The industrial revolution also brought an impact to the natural habitats which were destroyed bringing diseases to the crops, animals, and human beings. U.S Superfund came up with legal frameworks in 1980 which contained strict rules on legal liability for soil pollution. Although the United States has some sites with contaminated soils, it has been at the forefront in implementing cleanups mostly using microbes. Many of the lands globally are turning to desert and becoming infertile due to increased use of fertilizers and effects of global warming (Koide et al; 1977).


There are some causes of soil pollution which are majorly associated with human beings as while as natural processes.

Oil Spills- This occurs during transportation or storage of the oil. Tanks for holding oils accidentally gets cracks which cause the leakage. Petroleum oil affects the quality of the soil due to the accumulation of chemicals. This pollutes the soil hindering the effectiveness of farming.

Dumping of waste- Waste disposal including nuclear, electronic, sewage sludge, coal ash and industrial wastes contain toxic chemicals and materials which pollute soil if not well managed.

Agricultural farming activities- New methods of farming have caused a lot of damage to the environment. Chemicals such as pesticides, fertilizer, and herbicides destroy soil composition and expose to soil erosion. They also affect the soil fertility (Harrison, 2001).

Acid rain- This formed when pollutants react with oxygen and water in the atmosphere. It alters the soil pH, causes nutrients leaching and also affects the soil biology.

Mining Activities- Mining exposes topsoil to erosion. Some chemicals like mercury impurities are deposited in the soil during mining of coal hence destroying the quality of the soil.

Construction activities- Construction sites produce many soil pollutants like lead paints and sharps objects which degrades the soil quality.

Leaking sewers and underground pipes- This happens due to the presence of cracks which occur as a result of pressure from rock movements and rust. Chemicals in the sewers and tanks are discharged into the soil hence polluting it (Harrison, 2001).

Natural pollutants- Deposits of salt compounds facilitated by the imbalances of atmospheric depositions and precipitate water produce harmful chemicals.


Organs damage - Accumulation of heavy toxic metals like mercury in human body damages some organs like kidney, liver and also brains especially of children.

Cancer- More than 70% of the chemicals that pollute soil are carcinogenic. Benzene causes leukemia in children, and polychlorinated biphenyls are the main cause of cancer.

Bioaccumulation- Plants which grow in polluted soils accumulate toxic substances which are fed indirectly by human beings. Animals also feed on these plants hence affecting their health. People are more exposed to danger since we feed both plants and animals with such toxics.

Economic Losses- Many farmers fail to plant on polluted soils hence reducing their productivity. Those who grow crops in such soils may end up getting low yields. Some countries don't allow farmers to grow grains especially on lands polluted with heavy metals.

Air and Water Contamination - A polluted soil contaminates water sources through water runoff. Some toxic pollutants are exposed to the atmosphere in the form of gases hence polluting the air. Water, air and soil pollution from a cycle since each affects the other (Abdollahi et al; 2012).

Acidification- Organic materials in the soil decompose hence releasing sulfur dioxides which form acid rain (Van Rhee, 1977).

Imbalance of flora and fauna of the soil- Soil pollution destabilizes the life cycle in which the plants and animals are meant to fulfill. The imbalances of these two affect the whole ecosystem.

Toxic dust- People inhale toxic dust which is produced through soil pollution. The dust has chemicals which affect our organs and cause some diseases like asthma. Toxic dust also bloke stomata in plants affecting the flow of oxygen (Harrison, 2001).

Bad smell- Chemicals produced usually have the foul odor which affects human beings and can cause nausea.

Prevention strategies

Encourage recycling of plastics- This reduces the number of plastics found lying on the soil. It also earns a living to plastic collectors. Locally made products which are affordable to people are easily done (Harrison, 2001).

Ban deforestation- Cutting of trees leave the land bare, and this creates room for soil erosion to take place. Toxic substances are also easily exposed. Trees and forests maintain a sustainable ecosystem.

Creating awareness through programmes - Members of our society require a lot of education on soil pollution prevention measures. Most of the people are not aware of dangers of various pollutants.

Ban use of plastic bags- For instance, Kenya government banned all plastics bag with the aim of reducing soil and forms of pollution. Fine should also apply to those who violate the law.

Supporting and encouraging agroforestry programmes- Such programmes conserve the soil by providing a variety of trees and prevents ecological niche.

Use of organic manure- Such as cow dung, compost, and green manure. These composts do not contain chemicals as opposed to inorganic products like fertilizers (Harrison, 2001).

Crop and strip rotation- This controls soil erosion which carries the topmost soil important to crops growth.

Weed Control- This measure ensures that toxic substances don't get a place to get attached.

Waste disposal management- Proper mechanisms should be put in place to ensure that all wastes are being disposed at the right place. Most of these waste materials contain toxic products which lower the quality of the soil (Harrison, 2001).

Discourage intensive farming practices- For instance, overgrazing tampers with the soil structure due to soil erosion.

Encourage Soil Washing- This method removes contaminants from the soil through washing it. The method is quite cumbersome, but there are modern machines which do the work.

Use Bioremediation- This involves using microorganisms to disintegrate all contaminants and making them food (Brookes, 1995).

Encourage Soil Additives Lime helps to control soil pH and reduce soil erosion.

Thermal Remediation- This is the process of introducing heat to pollutants in the soil. The heat eliminates by changing them to gaseous products.

In conclusion, soil pollution is just like other forms since it has causes and health effects. It is a diverse topic which requires collaboration between government and other agencies. By applying the mentioned prevention strategies, soil pollution can decrease at a higher percentage. Individual effort is an important factor to start with before incorporating other measures. A nation with soil pollution regulations makes it easier for any environmental agency targeting to undertake projects related to the same or environmental sustainability in general.



Brookes, P. C. (1995). The use of microbial parameters in monitoring soil pollution by heavy metals. Biology and Fertility of soils, 19(4), 269-279.

Goldberg, E. D., Gamble, E., Griffin, J. J., & Koide, M. (1977). Pollution history of Narragansett Bay as recorded in its sediments. Estuarine and Coastal Marine Science, 5(4), 549IN3559-558IN4561.

Harrison, R. M. (Ed.). (2001). Pollution: causes, effects and control. Royal Society of Chemistry.

Karrari, P., Mehrpour, O., & Abdollahi, M. (2012). A systematic review on status of lead pollution and toxicity in Iran; Guidance for preventive measures. DARU Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences, 20(1), 2.

Van Rhee, J. A. (1977). Effects of soil pollution on earthworms. Pedobiologia.


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