What does soil contamination mean for city residents?


Air pollution and soil contamination have been common problems for quite some time now, yet nobody has taken any effective action against them. Each year there is a sharp increase in environmental pollution and a growth of the negative effects caused by it. 

Mongol News interviewed senior worker at the Public Health Institute Sh.Batdelger about this issue.

Does the Public Health Institute conduct research on soil contamination each year? If so, which part of the city has research been conducted in lately?

Research in 2012 showed that 80 percent of Ulaanbaatar was affected by third  degree soil contamination. Some parts had been found to have top soil contamination.

In 2013, our scientists took soil samples near schools and kindergartens in Bayanzurkh District and the result was at fourth degree contamination.

Recent research done in public areas near Narantuul in the 14th khoroo, Bayanzurkh District found heavy metals in the soil.

In the past we did research in the Ulaanbaatar area, but we are now conducting research in each district.

Does trash cause the soil contamination around Narantuul, and why has the market area been specifically focused on for conducting research?

We cleaned the area surrounding Narantuul on our “Trash Bucket Challenge” day and we took samples from three different areas for soil testing. There are 30 specifications that measure the quality of soil and we test for a few fundamental elements.

If the amount of bacteria in the soil is 1 to 1.5 million, the soil is clean. If it reaches around two million, the contamination is low; 2.5 to 3 million is medium contamination, and three to five million or above means there is high soil contamination.

The trash found on the surface is directly related to the level of contamination.

The unfortunate part is that children are playing in these polluted areas and it’s affecting their health adversely.

Is it true that some elements that can contaminate the soil are necessary for the human body?

Copper is often discovered in soil contamination testing. Copper is necessary for a healthy metabolism and blood circulation. However, high amounts of copper disrupt the normal functions of the liver and kidneys. In particular, copper can cause brain damage in children.

Do you take any action to decrease soil contamination, or is only soil testing the main directive of the Public Health Institute?

Our institute is planning to work with the World Health Organization to decrease soil contamination in Mongolia. Some countries purify polluted soil within one year, but Mongolia doesn’t have the right equipment or money for this, so we have only been doing soil testing at this point in time.

Many beneficial bacteria exist in soil and highly developed countries derive clothing materials from these bacteria. Mongolian scientists could also do this, but there isn’t enough funding for it.

Wooden latrines in the ger district pollute the soil, yet some people drill Abyssinian wells next to wooden latrines. This suggests that the people don’t have enough knowledge about soil contamination. What is your opinion on this?

People drill Abyssinian wells when they have a wooden latrine in their field. They should understand that groundwater is not pure enough for use. Nowadays the government doesn’t pay attention to sanitary issues in the ger district.

In the past, if 20 grams of lead had been discovered from testing, we would establish that the soil is contaminated, but we have now increased this amount to 100 grams.

The World Health Organization stated that 10 deciliters of lead adversely affects the mental ability of children, but recently this amount has decreased to five deciliters. It is interesting to note that the government always raises the standard amounts in our country.

China uses chemicals to plant fruits and vegetables. We believe that our soil is healthy. You said that most areas of Ulaanbaatar are contaminated. Does this mean we will get poisoned no matter where the food we are eating comes from? 

Soil contamination in China is directly related to their air pollution. These two are inseparable issues, because air pollution pollutes the soil in the winter and contaminated soil pollutes the air in the summer. China doesn’t have any choice other than contaminated soil to plant fruits and vegetables.

Recently, China spent 2.5 billion USD to destroy 12 tons of harvest crops that were planted in soil contaminated with heavy metals. Our soil contamination is much less compared to China, so we can do some research and plant fruits and vegetables in our soil. The harvest will be less contaminated, however, it is hard to predict the level of soil contamination in the following years.

Which part of the city is highly contaminated?

It is not necessary to do research to measure the soil contamination and air pollution.  We can observe it from how long we can wear clothes without washing them.

Our clothes get dirty due to soil contamination; dust is not related at all. The increase in intestinal infectious disease is also related to soil contamination. In other words, we don’t need statistical results to measure soil contamination. The pollution is everywhere.

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1 Comment for “What does soil contamination mean for city residents?”

  1. Ulaanbaatar hotiin hursnii bohirdliin suuliin jiluudiin statistic medeelel baina uu

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