Contaminated Soil Health and Safety Risks
Soil which has been contaminated in some way can pose a serious risk to the health and wellbeing of all living creatures in the area, and as such is a serious environmental health issue. This is because contaminated soil can enter the body and impact creatures in a number of ways.
The simplest method will be through direct contact with the soil. Depending upon the particular contaminant in question, direct contact with the skin can cause rashes and irritation, allergic reactions, or even serious illness/death if it is ingested somehow such as a person handling and eating food without washing their hands first.
One of the most common ways in which contaminated soil can have a significant detrimental effect upon the environment and affect the health of living creatures is through the contaminant seeping through the soil and affecting groundwater. This water will be used by plants and animals for drinking or being taken up through their roots, meaning that any contaminants in the water will enter into the cells of the living organism. In most cases this will cause serious ill-health or death to occur even over the short term, but is particularly likely with exposure over a long period of time.
The contamination of groundwater will not just affect plants and creatures in the immediate vicinity of the contamination, as this water will likely find its way into rivers, streams, lakes etc, meaning toxic and hazardous contaminants can affect large areas and travel great distances from the source. It is for this reason that water pollution is one of the most common and worrying forms of environmental pollution that exists, and is one of the key focuses for any environmental health and safety training course or programme which is conducted.
Use of the Land
The intended use of the land is an important consideration when assessing an area where the soil has been contaminated, as is the amount of contamination which has occurred. Varying Soil Guideline Values (SGVs) exist depending upon the intended uses of the land, as this will determine factors such as the age of the intended occupants (i.e. are they children?), the length of time a person may spend on the site, and its intended use (specifically, will it be involved in food production such as a farm or allotment?).