Types of Soil Pollutants

Soil pollution is a part of land degradation that is caused due to man-made xenobiotic chemicals or any other pollutants. These pollutants alter the natural environment of the soil and make it more toxic. Industrial activity, improper waste disposal, and agricultural chemicals are the main reasons behind soil pollution. Contamination of the soil is also correlated with the usage of chemical substances and the degree of industrialization.

What are the different types of Soil Pollutants?

Xenobiotics are a type of soil pollutants that are man-made. They do not exist naturally in the environment and are synthesized due to the activities of mankind. The word xenobiotic is derived from two Greek words “Xenos” which means foreigner and “bios” meaning life. Most of the xenobiotics are carcinogens in nature.

Types of soil pollutants

The different types of pollutants that are responsible for the contamination of the soil are as follows.

1. Heavy Metals: The existence of high concentrations of heavy metals like mercury and lead causes the soil to become highly hazardous to human beings. These heavy metals can originate from innumerable sources like due to various activities in agriculture and mining, and electronic and medical waste. Some of the most prominent heavy metals that act as catalysts in the soil pollution are:

  • Arsenic
  • Mercury
  • Lead
  • Antimony
  • Zinc
  • Nickel
  • Cadmium
  • Selenium
  • Beryllium
  • Chromium
  • Copper
  • Thallium

2. Industrial Waste

The harmful discharge from various industries results in soil pollution. Mainly the petroleum industry contributes to almost 50% waste products of petroleum hydrocarbon all across the world. Among these, some are known to be carcinogenic in nature like methylbenzene and benzene. The different types of industrial wastes are:

  • Dioxins from the incineration of the waste and production of pesticides
  • Dispersants or plasticizers
  • Chlorinated solvents
  • Polychlorinated biphenyls

3. Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons

PAHs are a type of organic compound that contains only hydrogen and carbon atoms. It also includes more than one ring of aroma in their chemical structures. High exposure to PAHs leads to different forms of cancer and cardiovascular problems in humans. However, Anthracene, Phenalene, and naphthalene are some of the most common types of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons. There are numerous sources of PAH like emissions from vehicles, cigarette smoke, processing of coal and shale oil extraction.

4. Pesticides

Pesticides can be defined as the chemical substances that are used to inhibit or kill the growth of the pests. Pesticide drift is a process of unintentional diffusion of the chemicals into the environment. Moreover, pesticide drift can cause soil and water pollution. These toxic chemicals pose different health threats to mankind like central nervous system damage, weak immune system, birth defects, and cancer. There are three types of pesticides that are used in agriculture. They are as below

  • Herbicides: Herbicides are applied to control or kill the weeds and other unwanted bush. Triazines, Amides, Aliphatic acids, Carbamates, and Phenoxyalkyl acids are the most popular herbicides in the market.
  • Fungicides: Fungicides are implemented to kill or inhibit the growth of different types of fungi, and parasites. All the mercury-containing compounds, copper sulfate, and Thiocarbamates are examples of fungicides.
  • Insecticides: Insecticides as evident from the name are applied to slay the insects. The most commonly used insecticides are Organophosphates, any Arsenic-containing compounds, Chlorinated hydrocarbons, and Pyrethrum.


Thus soil pollution is the result of different types of experiments and activities by mankind that ends up polluting the soil. Industrial wastes, harmful gases, pesticides, and different chemical compounds act as pollutants that are responsible for soil pollution. The other reasons for soil pollution include ignorant management of soil pollution, harmful and unfavorable irrigation. Improper maintenance of the septic system and leakage of sewage tunnels might also cause an imbalance in the soil.