Land pollution encompasses two different kinds of pollution: the accumulation of solid waste on the surface of the soil, and the leaching of chemicals directly into the soil. Because a number of different sources fall under the umbrella term land pollution, it has far-reaching environmental effects. These can cause a variety of problems to humans and wildlife in affected areas.
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Litter, sometimes called "sight pollution," is the most visible form of land pollution. This is not just a problem for cities---it is becoming increasingly difficult to find places that are free of litter. The trashing of natural landscapes has definite effects on industries like tourism. But aesthetics are only part of the problem. Litter can leach harmful chemicals, and is sometimes mistakenly eaten by wildlife. According to Claire Bates in her Mail Online article, about 80 per cent of the litter found in oceans, where it endangers marine life, was originally swept out from land.
Edible garbage often becomes food for pests such as rats and cockroaches. Giving these critters more food enables them to increase their populations. They become breeding grounds for communicable diseases, and as pests overrun environments (urban or natural), these diseases can be transmitted to humans, animals and plants.
There are various sources of soil contamination. Industrial and consumer waste can leach toxic chemicals into the ground if stored improperly. Products like batteries, fluorescent light bulbs and televisions contain chemicals such as mercury and radium, which are highly toxic. Industrial practices also contribute to soil contamination. Sources like smokestacks and fertilisers can coat large plots of land with toxins. These chemicals enter the soil, either attached to soil particles or trapped in air pockets. They then contaminate local plant and animal life, as well as nearby water systems. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, soil contamination can lead to major health problems in affected areas.
Chemicals that enter the soil can easily spread to water systems. Groundwater absorbs chemicals from the soil. It is often used to supply local communities with drinking water, and to support local agriculture. This further concentrates the contamination onto foodstuffs that are grown for human consumption. Nearby rivers can sweep chemicals downstream toward oceans or lakes, which affects fish and other wildlife. The higher up the food chain an animal is, the more contaminants are usually found in its body. This can be devastating for fisheries, as well as for consumers who eat tainted products.
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