The word “human” derives from the Latin “humus,” meaning soil, perhaps reecting an ancient understanding of soil’s importance to human existence (Merriam-Webster, 2008). Soil health and human health intertwine in multiple and powerful ways. As will be described, soil is fundamental to our food security. However, soil degradation may be threatening the ability to feed populations, both in the United States and globally. Soil is also an important vector for human exposure to pathogens and toxic contaminants, which contribute to an as yet unquantiable portion of the burden of cancer and other chronic diseases, as well as to health conditions resulting from acute exposures. Additionally, poor soil health contributes to climate change, water degradation, and other ecological conditions with human health effects including infections, respiratory conditions, heat stress, injury, and the stresses of social dislocation (Helmke and Losco, Chapter 7; Brevik, Chapter 16, this volume). Many of these soil-related impacts are inequitably distributed across populations, both geographically and demographically. Contemporary public health has afforded little attention to soil or its impact on food security and ecological threats, although a range of public health activities do address soil contamination.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Environmental Science(all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
- Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)