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19.3: Lesson 19.2: Pollution of the Land

Difficulty Level: At Grade Created by: CK-12

Key Concepts

  • The Love Canal Disaster
  • Pollution by hazardous waste
  • Controlling hazardous waste

Lesson Objectives

  • Describe the disaster of Love Canal and what it taught us.
  • Identify hazardous waste.
  • List ways to control hazardous waste.

Lesson Vocabulary

  • hazardous waste: waste that is harmful to people or the environment because it is toxic, corrosive, flammable, or explosive
  • pollution: act of contaminating the environment

Teaching Strategies

Introducing the Lesson

The following URLs are two parts of an excellent video about the Love Canal disaster, which opens this FlexBook® lesson. The video is an excellent way to introduce pollution of the land.


Students can learn about hazardous waste with the activity described at the following URL. In the activity, students will define and explore the relationship between hazardous substances and hazardous waste. They will also identify some commonly used hazardous chemicals, describe how they are used and disposed of, and sort them into the various types of hazardous waste. Finally, students will discuss how the improper use and disposal of the chemicals may affect people and the environment.


Building Science Skills

The activity at the URL below will help students understand what can be done to reduce the amount of solid and hazardous wastes that must be disposed of. Students will also review the characteristics of hazardous wastes and develop an estimate of the amount of household hazardous waste in their community.



According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, an estimated 200 million gallons of used motor oil are improperly disposed of each year in the United States by being dumped on the ground, tossed in the trash (ending up in landfills), or poured down storm sewers and drains. Used oil is insoluble and slow to degrade. It also sticks to everything from beach sand to bird feathers and may contain toxic chemicals and heavy metals that pose a health threat to humans, other animals, and plants. The activity “Used Motor Oil” (pages 46–50 at the following URL) examines the potential environmental effects and legal consequences of improperly disposing of used motor oil. It also investigates the environmental and economic benefits of recycling the used oil. The PDF document includes ideas for differentiated instruction.


Differentiated Instruction

Pair a student who is an English language learner or less proficient reader with a student is doing well in the class. Then ask partners to add the term pollution to the word wall. They should write the term and its definition on an index card and also list examples of substances that pollute the land.


Encourage interested students to learn about Superfund sites in their region, such as their state, county, or municipality. An excellent resource is “Superfund Sites Where You Live” at the URL below. Tell the students to find the nearest site; locate it on a map, and then determine its clean-up type. They should also find out who is responsible for the contamination, the chemicals or other hazards involved, and how or if the site has been cleaned up. Ask the students to share what they learn about the site with the rest of the class.


Science Inquiry

In the inquiry activity “What Effect Does Litter Have on the Acid Balance, Temperature, and Permeability of Soil?” (pages 12–17 in the URL below), students can investigate the impact that litter has on soil. They will examine three characteristics of soil—acid balance (pH), temperature, and permeability—in a series of tests that compare uncontaminated soil with soil that has been contaminated by litter.


Real-World Connection

Take your class on a field trip and have them collect samples of soil from a variety of different locations in the community, making note of each location on a map. Take the samples back to school and use test kits to check for levels of lead. (Contact your local extension office for information about lead testing.) Background concentrations of lead that occur naturally in surface agricultural soils in the United States average 10 parts per million (ppm), with a range of 7 to 20 ppm. Lead levels above this range are primarily the result of lead contamination. You may want to expand on the activity by having students to a Web quest to learn about possible sources of lead contamination in soils and the risks of lead contamination to people and the environment. You can learn more about lead in soils at the first URL below. You can find a detailed description of the activity at the second URL.



Reinforce and Review

Lesson Worksheets

Copy and distribute the lesson worksheets in the CK-12 Earth Science for Middle School Workbook. Ask students to complete the worksheets alone or in pairs to reinforce lesson content.

Lesson Review Questions

Have students answer the Review Questions listed at the end of the lesson in the FlexBook® student edition.

Lesson Quiz

Check students’ mastery of the lesson with Lesson 19.2 Quiz in CK-12 Earth Science for Middle School Quizzes and Tests.

Points to Consider

Besides soil, humans depend on many other natural resources. These other natural resources also must be protected. What are some other natural resources?

What can people do to protect them?

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