Industrial processes, agriculture and commercial activities can all degrade the quality of soil, resulting in erosion and contamination. Chemicals and pollution getting into the soil can affect water and human health.
There are a number of individual pieces of legislation covering discharges into soil. They include rules on the biodegradability of detergents, persistent organic pollutants, nitrates and mercury.
Specific sectors whose activities impact soil are also covered by legislation. They include the landfilling of waste, extractive industries and agriculture.
The European Commission published a Thematic Strategy on Soil in September 2006 setting out its future actions to help protect soil across the EU.
Common principles will be applied to soil protection across the EU but within this common framework, EU Member States will be given freedom to decide individual policy actions.