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World Soil Day 2019: Impact Of Soil On Your Health

Every year, 5 December is observed as World Soil Day, raising awareness on the growing problem due to population expansion. The theme of World Soil Day 2019 is 'Stop Soil Erosion, Save our Future', which focuses on raising awareness on the increasing challenges in soil management and y encouraging organisations, governments, communities, and individuals around the world to work towards improving the soil health and its conservation.

Initiated in 2002 by the International Union of Soil Sciences, the day was supported by the Food And Agriculture Organization of the United Nations as a global awareness-raising platform under the leadership of the Kingdom of Thailand and within the framework of the Global Soil Partnership [1] .

In December 2013, UN General Assembly at the 68th session declared 5 December as World Soil Day. The first World Soil Day was celebrated on 5 December 2014. On this World Soil Day, let us take a look at the way it can impact our health.

Impact Of Soil On Your Health

Studies point out that, soils play a central role in shaping one's overall health. It is asserted that an average of 78 per cent of global consumption is from crops that are grown in soil and another 20 per cent comes from terrestrial food sources that rely indirectly on the soil. A major source of nutrition from within, soil act as a natural filter in removing contaminants. However, the same is not the case in every type of soil, as nowadays, most types of soil packed with chemicals or pathogens that can have an adverse effect on the human body[2] .

Here are some of the ways through which soil can impact human health.

Source of nutrition: There are 14 elements essential for plant growth that come from the soil and many of these elements are also essential for human health, asserts studies. These nutrients become a part of our diet directly through the consumption of plants or indirectly through the consumption of animal products. Soils that provide plants with the proper nutrients for growth also contain many of the elements that are necessary for human health [3] .

Can cause selenium toxicity: Soils in certain locations are increasingly high in selenium content. Although the right amount plays a major role in thyroid function and immunity, excessive concentration of the element in the soil can lead to selenium toxicity and cause kidney and liver damage. It also causes brittle hair and nails, hair and nail loss, gastrointestinal problems, fatigue and nerve damage [4] .

May cause zinc deficiency: Like selenium, soils also contain zinc, which is essential for the proper growth and functioning of the human body. In many locations, the soils have been reported as having very low levels of zinc, causing issues with the gastrointestinal system and immune system [5] .

Contains disease-causing pathogens: Apart from being a source of nutrition and so on, the soil is responsible for exposing the human system to various pathogens [4] . Being a heterogeneous habitat for millions of macroscopic and billions of microscopic organisms, the several species of bacteria, fungi, protozoa, viruses and prions can cause disease depending upon many factors, including the condition of the soil, climate, location, land use etc.

May improve antibiotic resistance in bacteria: Although there is a lack of proper scientific background for the study, some researchers have pointed out that certain types of soil can improve the antibiotic resistance in bacteria, and once these bacteria affect you, the treatment can become difficult. Some of the common diseases reported are Coccidioidomycosis or valley fever [6] .

Apart from the aforementioned aspects, the mixing of organic chemicals within the soil can also negatively impact the overall health of a human being. Organic chemicals have been deposited into the soil both naturally and anthropogenically, which contaminates and destroys the nutritional profile of the soil.

In addition to this, soil pathogens can cause extensive diarrhoea and dysentery. The soil is not a natural reservoir for viruses, but viruses are known to survive in soil. Pathogenic viruses are usually introduced into the soil through human septic or sewage waste, which then goes onto affect your health. Consequently, viruses that cause conjunctivitis, gastroenteritis, hepatitis, polio, aseptic meningitis, or smallpox have all been found in soil[7] [8] .

View Article References
  1. [1] Wall, D. H., Nielsen, U. N., & Six, J. (2015). Soil biodiversity and human health. Nature, 528(7580), 69-76.
  2. [2] Hooda, P. S., Henry, C. J. K., Seyoum, T. A., Armstrong, L. D. M., & Fowler, M. B. (2004). The potential impact of soil ingestion on human mineral nutrition. Science of the Total Environment, 333(1-3), 75-87.
  3. [3] Abrahams, P. W. (2002). Soils: their implications to human health. Science of the Total Environment, 291(1-3), 1-32.
  4. [4] Sing, D., & Sing, C. F. (2010). Impact of direct soil exposures from airborne dust and geophagy on human health. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 7(3), 1205-1223.
  5. [5] Zornoza, R., Acosta, J. A., Bastida, F., Domínguez, S. G., Toledo, D. M., & Faz, A. (2015). Identification of sensitive indicators to assess the interrelationship between soil quality, management practices and human health. Soil, 1(1), 173-185.
  6. [6] Taylor, M. P., Mackay, A. K., Hudson-Edwards, K. A., & Holz, E. (2010). Soil Cd, Cu, Pb and Zn contaminants around Mount Isa city, Queensland, Australia: Potential sources and risks to human health. Applied Geochemistry, 25(6), 841-855.
  7. [7] Clark, E. H., Haverkamp, J. A., & Chapman, W. (1985). Eroding soils. The off-farm impacts. Conservation Foundation.
  8. [8] Steffan, J. J., Brevik, E. C., Burgess, L. C., & Cerdà, A. (2018). The effect of soil on human health: an overview. European journal of soil science, 69(1), 159-171.
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