Various Causes of Land Pollution

Land pollution is the destruction or decline in quality of the Earth’s land surfaces in term of use, landscape and ability to support life forms. Many times, it is directly and indirectly caused by human activities and abuse of land resources. Land pollution takes place when waste is not disposed off in the right manner or when people dump chemical products to soils in the form of herbicides, fertilizers, pesticides, or any other form of the consumer by-products. Mineral exploitation has equally led to the decline in quality of the earth’s land surfaces. As such, it has grave consequences for human health, plant life, and soil quality.

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Here are few of the causes of land pollution.

1. Solid Waste

Solid wastes include the magnitude of rubbish from schools, home, hospitals, market, work, restaurants, public places and so on. The bulk of these wastes typically winds up in the landfills. Examples of the solid wastes include things like bottles, cans, plastics containers, food, glass, wood, paper, used and grounded cars, broken furniture, obsolete electronic goods, hospitals waste and so on.

Some of these waste products are biodegradable, meaning they are capable of decomposing into organic matter. Examples include waste products produced from vegetations such as food remains and paper. There are others that are not biodegradable like plastics, broken car and electronic parts, glass, and metals. Since the majority of solid wastes cannot readily decay, they heap up in the landfills where they remain for thousands of years. As a result, they cause significant damage to the land and people within the surrounding.

2. Agricultural Chemicals

Agricultural chemicals refer to the waste materials generated from animal manure, crop, and farm residues. They include the chemical left over of all fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides, and insecticides utilized for agricultural activities. Most farming activities indulge in the use of insecticides, herbicides, pesticides, and fertilizers intended for increased crop productivity. In one way it is good because it promotes food security, but the chemicals and nutrients infiltrate and remain in the soil for years causing land pollution.

Furthermore, it alters soil activity which kills tiny animals in the soil and can potentially contribute to water pollution when the chemicals are carried into water bodies by storm water runoff or if they infiltrate the soil to the water table. According to 2006 and 2007 estimations by the Pesticides Industry sales and usage, 821 and 857 million pounds of active conventional pesticides ingredients were used respectively. The estimation reveals just how agricultural chemicals contribute to land pollution.

3. Industry, Energy, Manufacturing, and Construction Waste

Industrial wastes that pollute land include paints, chemicals, plastics, and metals among other industrial manufacturing byproducts and residues. The major industrial wastes products are generated from power plants, oil refineries, construction works, pharmaceuticals, and agricultural product producers.

Energy producing power plants release chemical wastes that are disposed in landfills. Examples include nuclear, coal, and fossil fuel driven energy production processes. Oil refinery processes also produce petroleum hydrocarbon byproducts that end up as waste and construction sites generate metal, wood, and plastic wastes whereas agricultural industries release scores of chemical wastes that find their way into landfills.

Power plants combust fossil fuels and biomass while other industrial manufacturers such as pharmaceuticals, oil refineries, and agricultural product producers utilize a series of raw materials with a lot of chemical residues and byproducts. As much as the bulk of industrial waste products disposals are regulated, at times, they find way to the landfills or end up disposed on some land somewhere. Wastewater and liquids from industrial, agricultural farms and manufacturing processes also contain all kinds of chemicals that at times contaminate lands when they are not disposed off correctly.

4. Mining

The act of extracting materials and ores from beneath the Earth’s surface is a contributor of land pollution because it destroys the quality of land. Examples include the extraction of coal, metals, oil, sand, quarry, stones, and mineral ores like gold. Mining and quarrying activities clear the land surface and the big manholes and pits left behind leaves the land completely wrecked. It leaves the land open to erosion that further destroys the quality of the land.

5. Oil Spill

We need refined oil to run our vehicles. Crude oil is refined into usable petrol, gas or diesel. When it is done, it results in some byproducts. Those byproducts end up at waste and are buried deep underground or in the landfills.

Similarly, leaking oil from vehicles can contaminate the soil and can prove serious for human health if same oil is used for agricultural activities.

6. Ashes

Ashes refer to the residual matter that is left behind after burning solid fuels. Generally, solid wastes like glass and metals from hospitals, market places, offices, and public places among other waste collection points are collected and burned in incinerators. After incineration, the remaining matter is ash, and they are categorized into two.

The first residual type is the bottom ash that remains at the bottom and second is called fly ash that is trapped by filters in the smokestack of the incinerators. Fly ash is highly toxic. About every four trucks of waste burnt produce one truck of ashes that is eventually dumped into the landfills.

7. Natural Disasters

Natural disasters in the form of floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, cyclones, earthquakes can destroy buildings and carry hazardous chemicals and materials into waterways and oceans. These pollutants can disrupt marine life and  aquatic systems.

8. Radioactive Waste

This includes waste from nuclear power stations that is disposed off underground. Rays from this kind of waste can cause lung or skin cancer. Radon is a serious pollutant gas that appears naturally in soil as a result of uranium breakdown process. This can have hazardous effect on the health of humans and wildlife.

9. Deforestation

Deforestation is the cut down of trees to clear land for farming, construction, settlement, mining, or other economic purposes. When this happens, it results in both land degradation and pollution because the value of land is completely lost. The naturally existing vegetation cover is responsible for supporting ecosystems and various life forms.

In forest regions, for instance, trees absorb and reflect 20% of the sun’s heat, conserving and protecting the surface soils from adverse land degradation or desertification. When trees are cut, the earth’s surface is left unprotected from rain and sun’s intense heat. Accordingly, the unfavorable conditions result in soil erosion, land degradation, and desertification.

Photo by: Adam Cohn

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