Soils and Human Health  book cover
1st Edition

Soils and Human Health

ISBN 9781138199316
Published November 16, 2016 by CRC Press
408 Pages 143 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

Despite the connections between soils and human health, there has not been a great amount of attention focused on this area when compared to many other fields of scientific and medical study. Soils and Human Health brings together authors from diverse fields with an interest in soils and human health, including soil science, geology, geography, biology, and anthropology to investigate this issue from a number of perspectives. The book includes a soil science primer chapter for readers from other fields, and discusses the ways the soil science community can contribute to improving our understanding of soils and human health.


  • Discusses ways the soil science community can contribute to the improvement of soil health
  • Approaches human health from a soils-focused perspective, covering the influence of soil conservation and contact with soil on human health
  • Illustrates topics via case studies including arsenic in groundwater in Bangladesh; the use of Agent Orange in Vietnam; heavy metal contamination in Shipham, United Kingdom and Omaha, Nebraska, USA; and electronic waste recycling in China.

In a scientific world where the trend has often been ever-increasing specialization and increasingly difficult communication between fields and subfields, the interdisciplinary nature of soils and human health studies presents a significant challenge going forward. Fields with an interest in soils and human health need to have increased cross-disciplinary communication and cooperation. This book is a step in the direction of accessibility and innovation, elucidating the state of knowledge in the meeting of soil and health sciences, and identifying places where more work is needed.

Table of Contents

Topic Overview
An Introduction to Soil Science Basics
Eric C. Brevik
Soils and Human Health: An Overview
Eric C. Brevik

Human Health as It Relates to Materials Found in Soil
Soil, Heavy Metals, and Human Health
Richard Morgan
Organic Pollutants in Soil
Lynn C. Burgess
Human Disease from Introduced and Resident Soilborne Pathogens
Thomas E. Loynachan
Radioactive Elements in Soil: Interactions, Health Risks, Remediation, and Monitoring
Charles E. Turick, Anna S. Knox, and Wendy W. Kuhne
Soil’s Influence on Water Quality and Human Health
Martin F. Helmke and Russell L. Losco

Human Use of and Interactions with Soil
Geophagy: An Anthropological Perspective
Jacques M. Henry and F. Daniel Cring
Soil Minerals, Organisms, and Human Health: Medicinal Uses of Soils and Soil Materials
Monday Mbila
Soils, Human Health, and Wealth: A Complicated Relationship
C. Lee Burras, Mary Nyasimi, and Lorna Butler
Human Contact with Plants and Soils for Health and Well-Being
Joseph R. Heckman
Organic Farming: Impacts on Soil, Food, and Human Health
Patrick M. Carr, Kathleen Delate, Xin Zhao, Cynthia A. Cambardella,
Pattie L. Carr, and Joseph R. Heckman
Addressing Soil Impacts on Public Health: Issues and Recommendations
Roni A. Neff, Cheryl Carmona, and Rebecca Kanter

Food Security and Climate Change
Soils and Food Security
Winfried E.H. Blum and Stephen Nortcliff
Soils, Climate, and Human Adaptability: Review of History in the Holocene
Miroslav Kutílek and Donald R. Nielsen
Climate Change, Soils, and Human Health
Eric C. Brevik

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Eric Brevik, PhD, is Associate Professor of Geology and Soils at Dickinson State University in North Dakota, USA.

Lynn C. Burgess, PhD, is Associate Professor of Biology, and Director of the Environmental Health Program at Dickinson State University in North Dakota, USA.


"These two editors provide an ideal mix of interests and expertise to explore this topic. They have recruited an outstanding group of authors … The book that resulted from their efforts is an introductory text that is easily readable. … Most chapters are highly referenced so that readers can go to original papers to obtain more in-depth information. … Overall, I enjoyed reading Soils and Human Health. It would be an excellent textbook for an elective course. The CD that includes all of the figures in color .tif files is a nice touch. I also recommend this book for the more casual reader interesting in learning more about how and why soils, and how we manage them, are important in maintaining human health in both developed and underdeveloped places in the world."
—Warren A. Dick, School of Environment and Natural Resources, The Ohio State University, Journal of Environmental Quality, 2013

"Soils and Human Health provides a broad international background on the various geochemical, microbiological, viral, and compositional characteristics of soils and how these components impact individual and community health. This book serves as an excellent introduction to the literature for advanced students and professionals. … The editors have clearly attempted to organize and introduce these topics in a logical way, and have largely succeeded in pulling together a valuable introduction to the issues of soils and human health that also includes excellent resources for those wishing to further explore certain topics."
—Gabriel M. Filippelli, Dep. of Earth Sciences, Center for Urban Health, Indiana University-Purdue University, Soil Science Society of America Journal, 77:1876, 2013

"… covers a wide range of topics … using an accessible, although technical, language that is understandable by professionals across multiple disciplines. … The editors guide the authors of this comprehensive and inter-disciplinary work throughout a communicative and cooperative product, extremely rich in figures, tables and several case studies. … It guides both students and scientists to understand the physical, chemical and biological complexity of different issues throughout the book."
—Teodoro Miano, Professor of Soil Chemistry, University of Bari, Italy

"Why do soils matter? The current buzzwords for soils as a natural resource are (soil) quality and (soil) health. This book provides an interesting introductory perspective on both topics, although it tends to use them interchangeably. The central premise is that soils form an integral link in a holistic view of human health that includes physical, mental, and social dimensions. In general, Brevik and Burgess (both, Dickinson State Univ.) succeed in their task. …the work clearly illustrates the potential for transdisciplinary opportunities in the study of soils and the environment. Summing Up: Recommended. Lower-division undergraduates through graduate students; general readers."
—M S. Coyne, University of Kentucky, in CHOICE

"This timely effort provides thought-provoking reading … should inspire new insights and stimulate original collaborative thinking among scientists in a wide variety of fields about the global consequences of human interaction with our soils."
Journal of Agricultural & Food Information, July 2013