The contributions of soils to human health
Few people seem to recognize the connections between soils and human health, even though soils are actually very important to health. The idea that there are links between soils and human health is an ancient one, but the scientific study of the links between soils and human health has only occurred in the last roughly 50 years, beginning to provide answers to our questions concerning how soils interact with and influence human health.
Soils influence health both directly and indirectly, and have both positive and negative impacts on health. Soils influence health through the nutrients taken up by plants and the animals that eat those plants, nutrients that need to be passed on to humans for adequate nutrition for growth and development. Soils act as filters to purify water and are a major source of medications. Exposure to soil microorganisms is important in the prevention of allergies and other immunity-related disorders. Soils can also harm human health through exposures to heavy metals, radiation, organic chemicals, and pathogens. Recently evidence has begun to emerge indicating that contact with healthy soils can have a positive influence on human health, in the tradition of studies that show improved human health through plant/nature contact. Soils interact with the atmosphere and are both affected by and influence climate change, which has implications for human health. Therefore, soils form an integral link in the holistic view of human health.