The exponential growth of contaminants or pollutant discharges in the environment due to increasing agricultural and industrial activities is a rising threat to human health and a huge concern for environmental health globally.
Land pollution among the types of pollution has been seen to be one of the most prevalent types of pollution because of the quest of man to satisfy his wants, which is seen both in the production process and consumption habit.
Land pollution is said to occur as a result of improper refuse disposals such as compost, trash, and other toxic materials.
This occurs as a result of human activities seen in oil rigs, sewage treatment plants discharge from industries, indiscriminate refuse dumps, littering of waste, mining activities, agricultural activities, urbanization, nuclear waste, etc.
The effects of land pollution on human health cannot be farfetched as land pollution can lead to the formation of breeding grounds for rodents, mosquitoes, flies, etc
Hence, Land pollution is simply defined as the degradation or deterioration of the earth’s land surfaces, both above and below ground level.
When these pollutants cause pollution on land, degrade and come in contact with humans it can lead to several curable and incurable diseases.
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Effects of Land Pollution on Human Health
Land pollution is deleterious to the human body in so many ways if left unaddressed. Nuclear waste which is classified as toxic waste and some other contaminants can be ingested by people either directly or indirectly causing both short-term and long-term health consequences to the human body.
According to the united nation environment program, about 3.2 billion people are affected globally by land pollution which amounts to 40 percent of the world’s population of which the group of people most affected is individuals with pre-existing illnesses, or more vulnerable individuals such as fetuses, neonates, and children are more sensitive than healthy adults.
Land pollution may enter the body directly which is through inhalation of dust particles and or unpleasant odor, through skin contact, or indirectly through the consumption of agricultural products such as vegetables grown on contaminated land and or by direct exposure to harmful vapors of volatile chemicals which has polluted the land.
Some of the effects of land pollution on human health are listed below:
- Kidney and Liver Damage
- Nerve and Brain damage
- Cholera and Dysentery
- Skin Diseases
- Endocrine Disruptors (Hormonally Active Agents)
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorders
- Respiratory Disorder
1. Cardiovascular Diseases
Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the world; in 2018, one in five people developed cancer and it was the cause of one in six deaths 2018. Pesticides, benzene, chromium, and weed killers are carcinogens that have been established to lead to all kinds of cancer such as lung cancer and skin cancer.
Consistent exposure to benzene is responsible for irregular leukemia, anemia menstrual cycles in women, and high level of exposure to benzene are deleterious as they can lead to the death of an individual.
Benzene is a liquid chemical found in crude oil, gasoline, and cigarette smoke. People living in areas where constant oil spillage is experienced are more vulnerable to cancer-related diseases as vapors released due to the spillage are carcinogenic.
2. Damage to Kidney and Liver
Mercury and Cyclodienes as land pollutants greatly increase the possibility of one developing irreversible kidney damage.
People also develop kidney damage when they are exposed to the land which has been contaminated with lead.
Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) and Cyclodienes can cause toxicity in the liver, as well.
This situation is worse for impoverished people who are forced by strained circumstances to live near dump sites, industrial factories, and landfills, where they are exposed to land pollution daily.
They develop impaired immune systems, kidney damage, and liver damage.
This is the ability of any contaminant (physical, chemical, or biological) to induce abnormalities in the fetus after exposure during pregnancy.
Land pollutants characterized as teratogens are, for example, arsenic, ionizing radiation from radon and its decay products, organic mercury compounds, PCBs, certain pesticides, and industrial solvents are substances that lead to this health damage in man.
The abnormality in the fetal development can be seen in growth retardation, functional disorder, impaired neuro-development, or the death of the fetus (pre-natal death)
4. Brain and Nerve Damage
Children are exposed to the harmful effects of land pollution in places like playgrounds and parks, where lead-contaminated soil has been proven to cause brain and neuro-muscular development problems.
This exposure takes place through inhalation of harmful odors which are released by the contaminated area.
Malaria is not only caused by mosquito bites, contaminated water, or raw sewage which may mix with soil in areas where the rainfall is usually heavy which is categorized as land pollution.
The protozoa that cause malaria and the mosquitoes that act as carriers thrive in such conditions; the resulting increase in the propagation of both the protozoa and the mosquitoes found in polluted lands such as waste dump sites leads to frequent outbreaks of malaria.
6. Cholera and Dysentry
Land pollution is closely linked to water pollution, because when the land is contaminated by indiscriminate sewage discharge, and improper waste dumping, the soil can leach into the surface and groundwater, leading to the contamination of drinking water and at such outbreaks of water-borne diseases like cholera and dysentery.
When an individual tends to get exposed to contaminated water is at risk of suffering from cholera or dysentery or the two as the case may be.
7. Skin Diseases
The human skin and mainly the upper layer of the epidermis play a significant role in the protection of the internal tissues of the body acting as a barrier.
However, is one of the major points of the target when exposed to toxins in the environment.
Such as in oil-contaminated land, while one walks barefooted in such areas there is a high risk of such individual developing skin irritations, melanoma dermatitis, and other skin-related infections.
8. Endocrine Disruptors (Hormonally Active Agents)
These are compounds that interfere with the hormonal (endocrine) system. The endocrine system release different hormones which are involved in the control of metabolism, maturation, growth, body and neurological development, and reproduction.
Humans can be exposed to endocrine disruption chemicals (compounds) through ingestion of food that is contaminated or even direct contact with contaminated land areas.
Endocrine disruptive chemicals interfere with reproduction in humans, and advances in molecular technologies are providing insight into the causative mechanisms, which include gene mutation, severe attention deficit disorder, cognitive, and brain development problems, DNA methylation, chromatin accessibility, and mitochondrial damage.
9. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorders
Adverse mental health effects have been reported to be associated with land pollution.
Research has shown that most people go into depression as a result of the loss of their lands either used as a waste dump site or as a result of oil spillage which has a deleterious impact on the soil as they are unable to grow crops in their farmlands which serves as a major source of their livelihood or experience low yield of crops.
This is Prevalent among the female gender as their mental health is mostly affected.
10. Respiratory Disorders
Pollutants released on land such as municipal organic waste indiscriminately disposed causes severe odor nuisance in the environment which is harmful to human health.
As human beings, who are exposed to such odors are at risk of nose and lung irritation, respiratory tract damage, shortness of breath, and olfactory annoyance.
The health condition of individuals who suffer from respiratory-related diseases such as asthma might worsen or even lead to their death when such individuals are highly exposed to the odor emitted either from the waste dump site or spillage of oil and other toxic chemicals in the environment.
This deal with the ability of any contaminant to damage the genetic information in a cell, causing changes in chromosomes or DNA and gene mutations.
Exposure to polluted land areas leads to a high risk of gene damage. Damage to the genetic material can occur in the somatic cells which are responsible for the formation of tissues and organs, or in the germ cells, which are responsible for the formation of the gametes, (i.e., the ovules and sperm cells), which hold the genetic information transmitted to the embryo.
Land pollution among the three major types(air, water, and land) of pollution is one of the biggest environmental problems faced by every country in recent times.
Specifically as a result of anthropogenic activities that take place in our environment.
This ranges from huge garbage heaps that are not properly disposed of to hazardous or toxic chemicals, rapid urbanization, agricultural activities such as overgrazing and indiscriminate application of fertilizer in the soil, and the use of pesticides, all of which tend to affect the land. Which directly or indirectly affects the human body when exposed to them through various directly or indirectly.
The land is a God-gifted resource to mankind. Therefore, the need to guide against inordinate or indiscriminate pollution of the land is suggested.
We can recycle or reuse products like fabric, plastic bags, and glass in our homes rather than disposing of them.
This is to reduce the quantity of solid waste disposed on soil and also the amount of waste that ends up in the landfill, agriculturally; organic means of improving the soil should be practiced.
Government should enact and implement policies addressing the inordinate discharge of liquid waste either by individuals or industries, these will go a long way to address the issue of land pollution to keep our environment safe and enhance the livelihood of people in the environment
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Ahamefula Ascension is a Real Estate Consultant, Data Analyst, and Content writer. He is the founder of Hope Ablaze Foundation and a Graduate of Environmental Management in one of the prestigious colleges in the country. He is obsessed with Reading, Research and Writing.