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The effect of soil on human health: an overview

Authors: Steffan, J.J., Brevik, E.C., Burgess, L.C. and Cerdà, A. (2017)


Soil has a considerable effect on human health, whether those effects are positive or negative, direct or indirect. Soil is an important source of nutrients in our food supply and medicines such as antibiotics. However, nutrient imbalances and the presence of human pathogens in the soil biological community can cause negative effects on health. There are also many locations where various elements or chemical compounds are found in soil at toxic levels, because of either natural conditions or anthropogenic activities. The soil of urban environments has received increased attention in the last few years, and they too pose a number of human health questions and challenges. Concepts such as soil security may provide a framework within which issues on soil and human health can be investigated using interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary approaches. It will take the contributions of experts in several different scientific, medical and social science fields to address fully soil and human health issues. Although much progress was made in understanding links between soil and human health over the last century, there is still much that we do not know about the complex interactions between them. Therefore, there is still a considerable need for research in this important area.


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