- Politics and Social Issues
What Is Pollution?
Different Types of Pollution
One of the biggest problems of our time is pollution. Pollution is the contamination of the earth's air, water, or soil by harmful substances and waste.
Types of Pollution:
Let's discuss them each one-by-one, their impacts and some possible solutions.
The Ten Most Polluted Places on Earth
On a hot summer day, you may notice a brownish-gray haze masking the sky. This is likely caused by air pollution. Air pollution is the contamination of our air by harmful substances such as carbon monoxide and random particles.
One major contaminant is ground-level ozone. Unlike the protective ozone layer in our atmosphere, ground-level ozone is a harmful pollutant that can cause negative health effects. Although this "bad ozone" is an invisible gas, it is an indicator of the severity or presence of smog.
Air pollution can cause health problems including asthma, lung inflammation, skin damage, headaches, burning eyes, and scratchy throats. High concentrations of certain air pollutants are extremely dangerous and can cause severe injury, cancer, or birth defects. The dangers are not just to humans, but also to animals and plants.
Individuals with respiratory problems, people with heart or lung disease, children, elderly residents, athletes, and pregnant women are at high risk for health problems from air pollution. Those who play, work, or exercise outdoors breathe pollutants deeper into their lungs, which can increase the chance of negative health effects. Chemicals and particles in the air also reduce visibility and can damage buildings and monuments.
Water pollution is any chemical, physical, or biological change in the quality of water that has a harmful effect on any living thing that drinks or uses or lives in it.
There are several types of agents that pollute water. The first are disease-causing agents. These are bacteria, viruses, protozoa, and parasitic worms that enter sewage system. A second category of water pollutants is oxygen-demanding wastes. These are wastes that can be decomposed by oxygen-requiring bacteria. When large populations of decomposing bacteria are present in water, they deplete the oxygen level which causes other organisms in the water, such as fish, to die. A third class of water pollutants is water-soluble inorganic pollutants, such as acids, salts, and toxic metals. Large quantities of these compounds will make water unfit to drink and will kill aquatic life. Another class of water pollutants are nutrients. These are water-soluble nitrates and phosphates that cause excessive growth of algae and other water plants, which deplete the water's oxygen supply. This kills fish and, when found in drinking water, can kill young children. Water can also be polluted by a number of organic compounds such as oil, plastics, and pesticides. These are harmful to humans and all plants and animals in the water.
A very dangerous category is suspended sediment, because it depletes the water's light absorption and the particles spread dangerous compounds such as pesticides through the water. Finally, water-soluble radioactive compounds can cause cancer, birth defects, and genetic damage and are thus very dangerous water pollutants.
Drinking water safety is often taken for granted in the United States. In recent years, however, environmentalists and the media have called attention to the dangers of ground water pollution and the health risks of lead, chlorine, pesticides, organic chemicals, and various microorganisms that have been found to contaminate our public water supplies. Outbreaks of waterborne diseases are a more common occurrence and have involved entire city populations, sometimes leading to serious complications and even fatalities.
Land pollution is the degradation of the earth's land surface through the misuse of the soil by poor agricultural practices, mineral exploitation, industrial waste dumping, and indiscriminate disposal of urban wastes. It includes visible waste and litter as well as pollution of the soil itself.
Soil pollution is mainly due to chemicals in herbicides (weed killers) and pesticides (poisons which kill insects and other invertebrate pests). Litter is waste material dumped in public places such as streets, parks, picnic areas, at bus stops, and near shops.
When waste accumulates it threatens the public health. Waste decays, encourages household pests, and turns urban areas into unsightly, dirty, and unhealthy places to live in.
The following measures can be used to control land pollution:
- anti-litter campaigns can educate people against littering
- organic waste can be dumped in places far from residential areas
- inorganic materials such as metals, glass and plastic, but also paper, can be reclaimed and recycled.
According to Food Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, human activities have degraded 15% of the earth's non-submerged surface. Farmland area has grown steadily in developing countries, the exact reverse of what has happened in developed countries. A full 23% of usable land has deteriorated so badly that its productivity has suffered.