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Soil contamination by hydrocarbonsFeatured science projectScience project video


This science fair project was performed in order to ascertain the effectiveness of using polymers in the rehabilitation of contaminated soil. The science fair project involved using motor oil to contaminate a sample of soil and then attempting to germinate seeds in the contaminated soil.


Oil absorbing polymers can effectively rehabilitate soil contaminated with motor oil and render the soil suitable for growth. Seeds will geminate in the rehabilitated soil that has been treated with oil absorbing polymers.

Scientific Terms

Soil contamination, hydrocarbons, solvent, evaporated, carcinogenic


Soil contamination

Soil contamination is the pollution of soil by pollutants such as hydrocarbons, heavy metals, pesticides and solvents. The sources of these contaminants are numerous – and include, for example, the use of pesticides, discharge of industrial waste, leakage from storage tanks, the dumping of fuel , land-fill wastes and many more.

Soil contamination poses many health risks to people, either through direct contact with the soil or the inhalation of the evaporated gases. However the biggest problem is the contamination of ground water that is eventually consumed by us. The health risks posed by soil contamination depends on the type of contaminant involved and the vulnerability of the affected population.

Over-exposure to lead, chromium, heavy metal, petroleum and pesticides that are known to be carcinogenic, leads to very serious, and usually chronic, health problems. For example, high doses of benzene exposure is known to result in increased incidences of leukemia. Mercury is known to increase the chances of damage to our kidneys.

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Complexity level:
Project cost ($):
Time required:
1 day to prepare, 10 days for the science project experiment
Material availability:
Easily found
Safety concerns:

Basic safety requirements. Discard the motor oil properly. Do not allow the motor oil to come into contact with bare skin.