UN Enviroment Programme

Chapter 11. Status of soil pollution in North America


Authors: Geoffrey Siemering (FAO-GSP), Natalie Feisthauer (Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC)) and Marilena Ronzan (FAO-GSP)

The North America region includes the United States of America and Canada (Figure 1). While Mexico is geographically part of North America for the UN FAO Global Soil Partnership it is included in the Latin American and the Caribbean region. The United States of America and Canada are large countries (9.83 million km2 and 9.98 million km2 respectively) with highly developed diversified economies with large resource extraction, agriculture and manufacturing sectors. Similar economies and levels of development have led to similar soil pollution sources and extent. Canada has a population of about 37 million people within 10 provinces and three territories with a GDP of USD 1.713 trillion (FAOSTAT, 2019a). The United States has a population of 327 million people with a GDP of about USD 20.544 trillion (FAOSTAT, 2019b). The United States of America encompasses 50 states and 14 territories and one federal district. Both countries have approximately 80 percent of their populations residing in urban areas (World Bank, 2020a). The United States of America has 44 percent of its land under agricultural uses and Canada 6.89 percent (Statistics Canada, 2017; World Bank, 2020b).

Figure 1. North American region as considered in this report.

Source: UN, 2020 modified with data from FAO, 2021.

Many sources of information have been considered to prepare this regional assessment, including official federal reports, state and provincial reports and scientific papers. No single comprehensive data source tracks the full extent of contaminated land in Canada or the United States. While the national governments do compile data for each country as a whole, much information on soil pollution resides at the state and provincial level.