Soil pollution: facts and figures from FAO

Facts and figures from  Hidden Reality, a new report from the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO):

  • Production of chemicals grown rapidly in recent decades and is projected to increase annually by 3.4 percent until 2030. Non-OECD countries will be much greater contributors in the future.
  • In 2015, the European chemical industry produced 319 million tonnes of chemicals. Of these, 117 million tonnes (MT) were deemed hazardous to the environment.
  • Global production of municipal solid waste was around 1.3 billion tonnes per year in 2012; it is expected to rise to 2.2 billion tonnes annually by 2025.
  • In many world regions, levels of persistent organic pollutants in human milk are significantly above those considered safe, with a higher incidence in India and in some European and African countries.
  • Certain low- and middle-income countries have notably increased their use of pesticides over the last decade. Bangladesh, for example, did so by four times, Rwanda and Ethiopia by over six times, and the Sudan by ten times.
  • Global manure production increased 66 percent between 1961 and 2016, from 73 to 124 MT. The volume of manure applied to soils grew from 18 to 28 MT, and the amount of manure left on pasture increased from 48 to 86 MT. Manure can contain high amounts of heavy metals, pathogen organisms and antibiotics.
  • Soils near roads have high levels of heavy metals, hydrocarbons, and other pollutants, posing a threat when food production occurs in adjacent areas or grazing on roadside soils takes place.
  • Approximately 110 million mines or other unexploded pieces of ordnance are scattered across 64 countries on all continents, remnants of wars that can have deadly consequences for farmers and which can release heavy metals through weathering.
  • Almost all soil in the northern hemisphere contains radionuclides in higher concentrations than the background level — even in remote areas, as a result of fallout from atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons and radiological events like the Chernobyl accident.

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