Soil pollution and effects on human health



by LORENZO CIOTTI

Soil pollution and effects on human health

When we talk about the environment, very often only biological or chemical aspects are mentioned, but we forget that the environment is, first of all, a physical container made up of rocks and the shapes in which they are modeled; it is therefore part of the Earth system and reflects its complex balances.

It is a very complex reality and a set of different factors that allow life; in it even a minimal change can cause serious consequences. Environmental problems arise precisely in situations that cause variations in these balances, which involve transformations of the system.

The major health effects linked to soil pollution are linked to direct contact of people with contaminated and particularly frequented areas of land. Of toxicological importance are the intake of contaminated water, the entry of toxic substances into the food chain, such as for example through animals that have grazed on polluted land or the consumption of vegetables, and the inhalation of vaporized compounds.

There is a wide range of acute and especially chronic health effects that can manifest themselves clinically. The entity of the biological damage is linked to various variables, among which: chemical nature of the contaminant, modality of exposure, quantity of contaminant present, duration of exposure, individual genetic factors.

Chromium and various plant protection products are carcinogenic. Lead is particularly dangerous for young children, in whom there is a high risk of developing brain and nervous system damage, while more generally the risk is related to kidney damage.

Mercury and cyclodiene are also known to induce a higher incidence of renal damage, sometimes irreversible. Dioxins are known carcinogens as well as very toxic compounds which also tend to concentrate further along the food chain.

Soil pollution and effects on human health

Chronic exposure to benzene in sufficient concentrations is known to be associated with an increased incidence of leukemia. Polychlorinated biphenyls and cyclodienes are linked to liver toxicity.

Organophosphates and carbamates, present in many plant protection products, can induce a chain of effects related to the inactivation of acetylcholinesterase and leading to neuromuscular block. Many chlorinated solvents cause liver damage, kidney damage and central nervous system depression.

There is a whole spectrum of additional health effects such as headaches, nausea, fatigue, eye irritation and skin rashes, related to the substances already mentioned and others, it can also lead to respiratory diseases or cancer.