One of the biggest problems in the world is environmental pollution. This pollution has been on a steady increase every year and is causing a lot of damage to the earth. Some of the damage can be corrected while others are irreparable. Environmental pollution can be defined as the contamination of the earth physically and biologically resulting in the disruption of normal environmental processes. The introduction of chemical or energy contaminants into the environment is what pollution entails (Vesilind, Peirce, & Weiner, 2013). Environmental pollution consists of various types of pollution. These are; water pollution, soil pollution, air pollution, noise pollution, and radioactive pollution. Other types of pollution include radioactive pollution, thermal pollution, and visual pollution.
This paper seeks to examine the different types of pollutants and environmental pollution, their effects on the environment, the laws regarding environmental pollution, and ways to stop or reduce environmental pollution. There is a need for people to understand the consequences of environmental pollution so that they can take action to eliminate it where possible.
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Environmental pollutants are what cause the pollution. They are therefore the agents of environmental pollution. These pollutants can take any of the three forms of matter. Huge volumes of gas, liquid, and solid contaminants are dumped into the earth’s environment every day. These pollutants have increased exponentially since the industrial revolution in the 19 th century. Technological progress , urbanization, and population growth are all contributing factors to the rise in environmental pollution. These factors stretch or contaminate the resources on earth to an extent that the environment is not able to keep up (McMichael, 2013).
Pollutants can be categorized into two types; i.e. non-biodegradable pollutants and biodegradable pollutants. Biodegradable pollutants are those that can naturally be decomposed with the presence of living organisms. These pollutants include inorganic salts, animal waste products, and phosphates. Biodegradable pollutants are thus not permanent problems to the environment. Nevertheless, they can be a huge nuisance if released in a large amount in small areas since their environmental assimilation might not handle their capacity.
Non-biodegradable pollutants, on the other hand, are those that cannot be decomposed by living things. They, therefore, stay in the environment for a long time. Some common non-biodegradable pollutants are metals, plastics, radioactive isotopes, and some chemicals such as mercury and hydrocarbons. The removal of such pollutants can be done by neutralization which takes time and a combination of other factors such as water, climate, and the wind (Vesilind, Peirce, & Weiner, 2013). Other non-biodegradable pollutants such as radioactive material, however, decompose by themselves over a long period of time.
Types of Pollution
Environmental pollution exists in many forms. The most important and adverse ones are air pollution, water pollution and soil pollution. There are however other forms of environmental pollution that most people might not know or understand. These include radioactive pollution, noise pollution, light pollution, and visual pollution.
Air Pollution: Sources and Effects
Air pollution can be termed as a type of pollution that is the most extensive and harmful in the environment today. Air pollution can arise from the smoke produced by factories and motor vehicles. The smoke from these sources could contain harmful gases to the environment, including carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, and sulphur. The smoke from burning rubbish and even cigarettes can also contribute to air pollution. Other pollutants involved in air pollution are chlorofluorocarbons. These are chemicals that can be released from aerosol sprays, repellants or even refrigerator components (Lave & Seskin, 2013).
The effects of air pollution are immense and are spread all over the earth. The increase in air pollution is evident in the increase in breathing problems among the human species. Diseases such as asthma, lung cancers, and allergies are all cause and fueled by air pollution (Lave & Seskin, 2013). Another effect of air pollution on humans is a reduction in visibility which causes hindrance or delay in transportation. This type of pollution has also caused significant damage to plants and other animals as well. For instance, air pollution has interfered with bird migratory routes that have been existence for centuries. Global warming is also being experienced due to the depletion of the ozone layer with air pollutants such as chlorofluorocarbons.
Water Pollution: Sources and Effects
Water pollution has also become rampant in recent times. The dumping of industrial waste in water bodies is the main way that water contamination occurs. Humans have polluted water bodies such as lakes, dams, rivers, and oceans by depositing huge amounts of waste from industries, households, and other sources. Some rural residents also still take showers and prepare meals with the same water. Oils spills are also to blame for water pollution. They block oxygen from getting into the water, thus affecting the animals living in the water. Another source of water pollution is a runoff of soil pollutants and leaching into the water . The acidic rain that results from the release of dangerous gases into the atmosphere aggravates the condition of the water bodies (Vesilind, Peirce, & Weiner, 2013).
Water pollution leads to the interference of marine life. The pollutants make water bodies inhospitable leading to the death of both animals and plants. Oil spills and thermal pollution lead to the depletion of breathable gas to the animals in the water . Water pollution also has implication on human health. Pollution of water can lead to the spread of water-borne illnesses such as cholera and typhoid. Other adverse conditions caused by water pollution are cancer, skin diseases, hepatitis, and liver and kidney damage.
Soil Pollution: Sources and Effects
Soil pollution is also normally referred to as water contamination. This type of pollution occurs when harmful elements and chemicals are released into the soil. These chemicals could be released as accidentally or deliberately. An example of an accidental release could be the leaking of chemicals from an underground tank into the soil or the accidental spillage of oils on the soil (Vesilind, Peirce, & Weiner, 2013). Some soil contaminants are in the form of polluted waters leaching into the soil, acidic rain, and fertilizers among others. The soil contaminants contained in these factors are hydrocarbons, chemicals in herbicides and pesticides, heavy metals, and some industrial solvents.
Soil pollution can be connected to water pollution since their effects are identical and related. This type of pollution, mainly affects plants, although it can also affect other living things. Some effects include the causative of cancers such as leukemia, skin irritations and rashes, developmental damage such as in the case of lead, damage to the central nervous system, and liver damage if the pollutant in the soil is mercury. The flora are also affected by soil contamination. Most contaminated soils cannot support the growth of crops and plants. This is because the chemicals released into the soil may not be friendly to the growth of plants.
Light Pollution: Sources and Effects
Light pollution is a less common form of pollution. It is also known as photo-pollution in some instances. It is defined as the use of excessive light, obstructive light, or misdirection of light. Some causes of light pollution include astronomical interferences, glares, over-illumination, light clutter, and trespassing of light. The consequences of light pollution include wastage of energy, reduction of contrast in the sky, thus affecting astronomy, effects on the health and psychology of animals and humans such as anxiety, disruption of organisms and the ecosystem, and the reduction of the sky’s polarization which is used by animals for navigation at night.
Sound Pollution: Sources and Effects
Noise pollution is causing of disturbance due to excessive noise. This noise might interfere with the activities of both animals and humans. The most common sources of noise pollution in the world today are machines . These include vehicle engines, building activities, aircrafts , industry noises, loudspeakers and high-intensity sonar effects. Noise pollution is common in urban centers. This is due to the abundance of machinery and in some cases poor urban planning. Sound pollution just like the other forms of pollution can cause effects to the health of humans and animals. Unwanted sound can cause stress, hearing loss, disturbance to sleep, and even hypertension. In wildlife, noise affects the detection mechanism used by predators. It can also force the animals to change their mode of communication such as by using higher volumes or changing the time of communication.
Greenhouse Gas Effect and Global Warming
Greenhouse gases and global warming are a major concern in the world today. Both of these phenomena result from environmental pollution. Global warming is an observable rise in the average temperature of the earth. The temperatures lead to melting of ice and warming of the atmosphere. Most scientists believe that global warming is not natural, but it is due to human activities. One such activity is the release of greenhouse gasses which are not absorbed into the vegetation or water; thus remaining in the atmosphere (Harvey, 2015). People are only starting to consider global warming as a serious problem, and several countries have plans to alleviate the looming catastrophe.
The greenhouse effect is the process through which the surface of the globe gets warmed above normal temperatures. Gases such as carbon monoxide, nitrous oxide, chlorofluorocarbons, methane, and water vapor that are released into the atmosphere can trap the earth radiations. These gases prevent the escaping of the infrared radiations leading to the heating of the earth’s atmosphere. The more the greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere, the more the greenhouse effect will be. The greenhouse gases also radiate the energy they have trapped, and some reach the earth’s surface thus warming it. The interference with the natural greenhouse effect due to environmental is what is blamed by many factions for causing global warming.
The activities of humankind on the earth have led to the enhancement of the greenhouse effect. The atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide and other anthropogenic drivers have been measured and are at an unprecedented high. Large-scale deforestation and the incessant burning of fossil fuels are the main contributors to the high rates of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. It has also been shown that variation in carbon dioxide levels leads to variation in the climate over time. The observed and expected environmental effects as a result of the greenhouse effect, and global warming is a rise in the sea level, extreme weather, interference with ecological systems, and increased seismic activity in the long-term among other problems (Harvey, 2015).
Recommendations to Stop or Minimize Pollution
There are many things that human beings can do to prevent environmental pollution. There have been many old ideas on how to deal with pollution and there an emergence of new ones. Some of the old ideas that are effective to this day. Technological advancement is arguably the most popular of the ideas (Hocking, 2016). Advancement in technology has the ability to rid the world of high pollution levels. The use of green technology, which is quickly catching up in many countries can be used to reduce environmental pollution. Investment needs to be made in the field of green technology so as to revolutionize energy production, living, nanotechnology, and environmentally preferred purchasing. These green technology subject areas will lead to the reduction in environmental pollution.
Another way that environmental pollution can be averted is the creation of awareness. Most people have the erroneous believe that it is only through technology that human beings can beat environmental pollution. This is not the case since human consumption is the main cause of pollution. People need to understand that pollution can be beaten by reduction of human consumption where necessary. Public education institutions have the mandate to spread this information about reduction production and consumption of what we do not need. Educated individuals will also push for tougher environmental laws in their regions.
The problem of pollution can also be controlled by use of regular control practices. These practices such as recycling, reusing, waste minimization, and reforestation can be embraced and used by anyone. Progressive nations recycle almost all of their wastes while other countries lag behind. Materials that are easily recyclable such as plastics and tins should be used more often in contrast to those that are hard to recycle such as Styrofoam and plastics (Hocking, 2016). Reforestation also helps to mitigate the damage already done by environmental pollution. Other alternatives to dealing with environmental pollution include a reduction in emissions, adaptation to the effects of pollution, and climate engineering which is still a new field.
Environmental pollution in all its forms causes adverse effects to the environment. Continued pollution has made some parts of the world inhabitable while others are dangerous habitats. Human beings are the sole cause of environmental pollution, and they are the ones that suffer the most. People need a shift in their consciousness levels on their interaction with the environment. There is, therefore, a need for us to adopt greener lifestyles and take measures to reduce or eliminate environmental pollution. This can be accomplished by the use of technology, formulation, and adherence to environmental laws, and use of regular control practices.
Harvey, L. D. (2015). Global Warming . Abingdon: Routledge .
Hocking, M. B. (2016). Handbook of Chemical Technology and Pollution Control . Amsterdam: Elsevier.
Lave, L. B., & Seskin, E. P. (2013). Air Pollution and Human Health (Vol. 6). Abingdon: Routledge.
McMichael, A. J. (2013). Globalization, Climate Change, and Human Health. New England Journal of Medicine , 368(14), 1335-1343.
Vesilind, P. A., Peirce, J. J., & Weiner, R. F. (2013). Environmental Pollution and Control . Amsterdam: Elsevier.