Are you aware that it can take 500 to 1000 years to form 1 inch of soil? Or, that if present rates of degradation and contamination continue, all of the world’s topsoil could be lost by 2075? Soil is critical to life. Healthy soil provides an ecosystem for billions of organisms, filters our water, and allows us to grow nutrient dense food. Without healthy soil, plants simply cannot produce food.
Topsoil is the layer of soil that contains a dense concentration of nutrients, organic matter and microorganisms. It is vital for maintaining a healthy plant growth. With the use of heavy chemicals from industrial agriculture, as well as other environmental pollutions, we are losing our topsoil at alarming rates. Nutrients added to the soil by industrial agriculture to increase crop yields pose one of the largest sources of soil contamination. Industrial chemicals, lead contamination, radioactive metals, improper disposal of hazardous materials, salts, and sewage play additional roles in soil contamination. Take a look at these facts of our current soil situation.
Soil Contamination Facts:
- 95% of all food comes from soil.
- Arsenic from smelter emissions and pesticide residues binds strongly to soil and will likely remain near the surface for hundreds of years as a long-term source of exposure.
- in Australia, some 80,000 sites are now estimated to suffer from soil contamination.
- China has categorized 16% of all its soils and 20% of its agricultural soils as polluted.
- Contaminated soils can leach toxic chemicals into nearby ground or surface waters, where these materials can be taken up by plants and animals, contaminate a human drinking water supply.
- Humans can be harmed by contact with toxic and hazardous materials on a contaminated site via exposure to contaminated land, air, surface water, and groundwater.
- More than 70% of the soil pollutants are carcinogenic in nature, intensifying the chances of developing cancer in humans exposed to the polluted soils.
- As of 2017, EPA and its partners reported overseeing approximately 640,000 to 1,319,100 facilities to prevent releases into communities
- Fun fact: Did you know that there are more living individual organisms in a tablespoon of soil than there are people on the earth?
How can I make an impact:
Action 1: Global Goodness
- The most effective way for you to make an individual impact is to reduce the amount of pesticides and fertilizers you use. Also, switch to more eco-friendly and sustainable forms.
- Growing a garden? Make sure you are growing a diverse array of crops as well as regularly rotating them to prevent nutrient depletion. This helps prevent the use of synthetic fertilizers.
Action 2: Planet Protector
- All of Action 1
- Reduce, reuse and recycle properly. Soil contamination from waste is a growing problem. Purchase reusable bottles, and reduce your consumption of harmful chemical cleaners and plastics.
- Educate others. Spread the word in your neighborhood and community about the importance of soil health.
Action 3: Earth Angel
- All of Action 1 & 2
- Write or call your local congressman to enhance regulations on industrial practices. By far, industrial production and agriculture are causing the greatest detriment to soil health. Tell congress we want change.
- Support local and organic farmers. Many local farmers are connected with the soil taking care of the soil is of utmost importance. Support those who protect the planet.