Land Pollution: Dirty Facts Behind Its Causes and Effects

, Staff Writer
Updated April 23, 2021
taking samples for testing for land pollution
    taking samples for testing for land pollution
    BartCo / E+ / Getty Images
    Used under Getty Images license

Land pollution is the contamination of land. It most often occurs as the result of human interaction with land, but in some cases it can also be associated with natural disasters. Learn about the different types of land pollution, including its causes and effects.

Land Pollution Causes

There are many types of land pollution caused by a variety of circumstances. Any circumstance that causes land or soil to become contaminated is a cause of land pollution. Potential sources for land pollution include:

  • improper disposal of hazardous or toxic waste
  • underground storage tanks that leak
  • spills or accidental release of toxic substances
  • illegal dumping
  • overcrowded landfills
  • depositing litter on the ground
  • pesticide usage
  • agricultural fertilizer usage
  • mining activities
  • natural disasters such as floods or hurricanes
  • acts of war or terrorism involving toxic substances

Effects of Land Pollution

Land pollution is very dangerous. It can render land unusable and/or pose significant threats to people or wildlife who live on or near it. It is, of course, also detrimental to the overall environment. Discover some of the most common effects of land pollution.

  • There is a close association between land pollution and water pollution. When soil pollution is present, the groundwater and surface water will likely become contaminated as well as the land.
  • When land pollution gets into the groundwater, it can find its way to the drinking supply and lead to a drinking water supply that isn't safe for consumption.
  • Exposure to land or soil pollution can lead to serious diseases, such as cancer, heart disease, respiratory conditions, birth defects, and other serious medical conditions.
  • Land impacted by soil pollution can become infertile or unsafe to use for agricultural purposes.
  • Wildlife habitats can be lost to land pollution, with animals having to leave their natural habitat in search of land that is safe to live on.
  • Land pollution can contribute to the endangerment and potential extinction of many wildlife species.
  • Polluted land areas are often abandoned and neglected, which can lead to them presenting an elevated wildfire risk.
  • When polluted areas burn, the substances in the land can be pulled upwards in the fire and contribute to air pollution.
  • Pollution of the land changes the ecosystem, which can alter long-term climate patterns.
Real-World Land Pollution Examples

There are too many real-world examples of soil pollution, some of which are so severe that they have been designated as Superfund sites by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The examples below are all Superfund sites, which means that they are severely contaminated.

  • Advanced Micro Devices, Building 915 (CA) - This semiconductor/microprocessor manufacturing facility was designated as an EPA Superfund site when the soil and groundwater were found to be contaminated by solvents (trichloroethylene and trichlorobenzene) within three miles of the drinking water supply for Sunnyvale, CA. This was due to a combination of leaking tanks and spills.
  • Anniston Army Depot (AL) - This EPA Superfund site has six disposal locations. Five are pits filled with contaminated liquid chemical and industrial wastes and solvents. One is a location where drums of bleaching powder (calcium hypochlorite) are buried. The soil at the site is contaminated, as is the groundwater.
  • Continental Cleaners (FL) - The soil and groundwater surrounding this Miami-area dry cleaner were found to be contaminated with tetrachloroethene (PCE), a solvent used in dry cleaning. Cleaning production has stopped at the site, but it has not been cleaned up. It is directly over the sole aquifer providing drinking water to southeastern Florida.
  • Macon Naval Ordnance Plant (GA) - The soil here is contaminated with mercury, cadmium, PCBs, and several pesticides. The groundwater has a high concentration of trichloroethylene (TCE), as do a nearby wetlands area. The site has been occupied by multiple parties, so there are questions over who is responsible for cleanup. As a result, no action has been taken.
  • Scovill Industrial Landfill (CT) - This former landfill was broken into parcels and sold for development. When the final parcel was being developed as a residential facility for senior citizens, industrial waste was discovered. Substances found in the soil include acenaphthene, anthracene, chrysene, fluorene, PCBs, and several metals. Construction stopped and the facility was sealed.

Learn the Facts About Pollution

Land pollution can be very harmful, but it's not the only type of pollution there is. While you've got pollution on your mind, take the time to learn about other types of pollution as well. The more you know about the causes and effects of different kinds of pollution, the better able you'll be to play a role in helping to stop pollution.