Soil is considered to be polluted when it contains enough contaminants to threaten the health of bodies of water, organisms, plants, animals, humans and the soil itself. 

In this call to action for soil conservation, learn about 5 of the consequences of soil pollution and a few ways to help remedy the problem. 

6 devastating effects of soil pollution

Soil pollution can have a variety of adverse effects on ecosystems and human health. 

These consequences can stem from direct contact with the polluted soil or exposure to other resources such as food grown in the soil or water that has flowed through it.

Here are 6 examples of the effects of soil pollution.

1 – Health problems in humans 

Many soil pollutants are carcinogenic. Individuals who are exposed to them are much more likely to develop cancer than those who aren’t.

Contaminated soil can also lead to other health problems such as depression of the central nervous system, headaches, nausea, fatigue, eye irritation and skin rashes. When the soil contains excessive amounts of mercury, those exposed are more likely to suffer from kidney or liver damage. 

High levels of heavy metals in the soil can cause irreversible developmental problems in children. For example, high concentrations of lead or mercury can damage children’s brains while they are still developing, causing neurological problems. 

2 – Food chain disruption

Soil pollution can negatively affect the metabolisms of microorganisms and arthropods, destroying some levels of the food chain and negatively affecting predators. Smaller life forms ingest the harmful chemicals in the soil, which then pass up the food chain to larger animals, leading to increased mortality rates and even extinction.

3 – Lower air quality

Contaminated soil can release volatile compounds into the atmosphere, contributing to air pollution. The more toxic compounds the soil contains, the more it will affect air quality. 

4 – Decreased soil fertility

Pollution can increase the salinity of the soil, making it barren and unsuitable for growing most types of plants. Any crops that manage to grow in such conditions would be toxic enough to cause health problems if eaten. 

Emitted by burning fossil fuels, sulfur dioxide is an acidic component that can contaminate the soil. It creates an acidic environment that is detrimental to the microorganisms like worms that usually improve soil health by decomposing organic matter and promoting water movement. Fungi and bacteria that help bind the soil together are also negatively affected by acidity, which can lead to soil erosion. 

Increased acidity in the soil can hinder its ability to weather changes in pH levels, so crops may die in the event of inhospitable conditions.

5 – Plant growth problems

Most plants are unable to adapt when soil chemistry changes drastically in a short period of time due to contamination. Soil pollution can alter their metabolism and reduce their ability to absorb nutrients and perform photosynthesis, interfering with their growth. 

6 – Groundwater contamination 

Soil pollution can also contaminate the groundwater, which is one of the main sources of drinking water for many communities. Since groundwater collects underneath layers of soil, any toxins present in the soil can seep into the water and pollute it.

When polluted water is consumed or used over long periods of time, it can have severe consequences.

Ways to mitigate soil pollution

We may not be able to decisively turn the tide of soil pollution alone, but every bit of progress makes a difference. That being said, governments need to lead by example and do their part to fight soil contamination. 

Here are a few of the ways in which individuals, organizations and governments can mitigate soil pollution.

1 – Reduce, reuse, recycle

Much of the waste generated by households is taken to landfills for disposal. In landfills, plastics and other materials slowly break down, releasing toxic substances into the soil. Some of these substances are very detrimental to soil health and constitute a major source of contamination. 

Reducing the use of disposable products and recycling and reusing items as much as possible are good ways to limit the amount of waste that ends up in landfills contributing to soil pollution.

2 – Limit the use of chemical fertilizers

While appropriate amounts of chemical fertilizers can improve soil fertility, overusing them can pollute the soil in many ways.

Too much chemical fertilizer can disrupt soil pH levels and destroy beneficial microorganisms. Runoff from the soil where fertilizer is used also pollutes the water.

That’s why manure and other natural fertilizers should be favoured over chemicals.

3 – Improve hazardous waste management

Most jurisdictions have hazardous waste management regulations in place to protect the environment. It’s important for governments to enforce these regulations strictly and diligently. 

In Quebec, land protection and remediation laws and initiatives like Traces Québec demonstrate the government’s commitment to the fight against soil pollution.

4 – Stop deforestation

One of the main causes of soil pollution is soil erosion brought on by deforestation.

Tree planting should be encouraged in arid and deforested areas. The roots of plants bind the soil together and can even help remediate it.

5 – Act fast in the event of a spill

Many environmental disasters can be attributed to slow response times following an emergency such as a chemical or oil spill.

Whether the spill is gradual or sudden, it’s vitally important to have an environmental services company respond as soon as hazardous materials are released into the environment.

Even comparatively minor spills like residential oil tank leaks should be dealt with promptly by emergency response and soil remediation specialists. 

EBI Enviro Urgence: your partner in the fight against soil pollution

At EBI Enviro Urgence, we offer comprehensive contaminated soil management services designed to help companies and individuals lessen their environmental impact.

Our methods protect even the most fragile ecosystems and include the following essential steps:

  • Assessing the extent of the contamination
  • Using the criteria established in the Soil Protection and Contaminated Sites Rehabilitation Policy
  • Carrying out soil treatment or disposal
  • Excavating and transporting contaminated soil
  • Selecting sites for treatment or disposal


In the event of a spill, contact us to have your property decontaminated by a team of professionals who are committed to keeping everyone and the environment safe.