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How does soil pollution affect human health?

Image: Jing, Soil hand farm, Pixabay, Pixabay Licence

This paper summarises what we know about the links between soil pollution and human health, with a focus on cardiovascular disease. The main issues it considers are macroplastics, microplastics, deforestation, pesticides, overfertilisation and heavy metal toxins.


Healthy soil is foundational to human health. Healthy soil is needed to grow crops, provides food, and sustains populations. It supports diverse ecosystems and critical ecological services such as pollination. It stores water and prevents floods. It captures carbon and slows global climate change. Soil pollution is a great and growing threat to human health. Soil may be polluted by heavy metals, organic chemicals such as pesticides, biological pathogens, and micro/nanoplastic particles. Pollution reduces soil’s ability to yield food. It results in food crop contamination and disease. Soil pollutants wash into rivers causing water pollution. Deforestation causes soil erosion, liberates sequestered pollutants, and generates airborne dust. Pollution of air, water, and soil is responsible for at least 9 million deaths each year. More than 60% of pollution-related disease and death is due to cardiovascular disease. Recognizing the importance of pollution to human health, the European Commission and the EU Action Plan for 2050: A Healthy Planet for All, have determined that air, water, and soil pollution must be reduced to levels that cause no harm to human or ecosystem health. We are thus required to create a toxic-free environment, respect the concept of a safe operating space for humanity, and sustain the health of our planet for future generations. This review article summarizes current knowledge of the links between soil health and human health and discusses the more important soil pollutants and their health effects.



Münzel, T., Hahad, O., Daiber, A. and Landrigan, P.J., 2022. Soil and water pollution and human health: what should cardiologists worry about? Cardiovascular Research, cvac082.


Read the full paper here. See also the TABLE explainer Impacts of climatic and environmental change on food systems.

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