16 Dec 2022


Types of Pollution: Classification of Pollution

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In the modern society, one of the most talked about issues is pollution. The concept refers to the process of contaminants getting into the environment thus causing adverse effects. Pollution occurs largely due to human activity. The continued occurrence of pollution has brought about increased adversities to human beings. Nevertheless, there is a divide in the global community as many of the members do not believe that there is satisfactory evidence to show that pollution is dangerous and is a significant factor in the occurrence of climate change. The following report provides the various types of pollution and identifies the worst type as a means of creating further awareness of the issue. 

Air Pollution 

Air pollution is the intentional contamination of the air through exposure to smoke and various harmful gasses. The air space has an accurate composition of various gaseous compounds. Approximately 78.09% of the air is made up of nitrogen gas, 20.95% is oxygen, 0.04 is carbon dioxide and the rest is made up of water vapor and other inert gasses. Through human activity the air we breathe is continuously affected as various unwanted gaseous compounds enter into the airspace causing significant contamination (Raaschou-Nielsen et al., 2013). The most common way of causing pollution is through the burning of fuels creating soot and other millions of tiny particles that float about in the air. Dangerous gases exposed to the air through human activity such as in manufacturing industries have a similar adverse effect. Nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, and carbon monoxide among other greenhouse gases contaminate the air. Through further reaction in the air space, they combine to form acid rain that negatively affects plant life. Greenhouse gases occur when gases absorb the earth’s infrared radiation and consequently prevent heat from escaping the atmosphere. In this regard, GHG gases keep the earth’s atmosphere warm and propel climate change or global warming. The highlighted factors prove that air pollution is the worst type of pollution. It is difficult to take note of this process taking place and only when the adverse effects begin to manifest is when the global society will take notice. 

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Water Pollution 

Water pollution takes place when dangerous chemicals and foreign substances are introduced to clean water sources. The pollutants include chemicals like fertilizers runoff from agricultural practice, pesticides, and metals like lead and mercury among other substances. The Environmental Protection Agency has pointed out the increased pollution of water whereby 44% of streams, 64% of lakes, and 30% of bay areas do not have clean water for engaging in practices like swimming or fishing (Ebenstein, 2012). The most common pollutants in the US include nitrogen, bacteria, mercury, and phosphorous as per reports by the EPA. The report does not mean that it is only the US that has a major problem with water pollution. Rather, the data provided by the United Nations show that millions of people are suffering due to contaminated water. Approximately, 783 million people around the world have no access to clean water while a further 2.5 billion have poor sanitation (Redel-Macías, Pinzi, Leiva, Cubero-Atienza, & Dorado, 2012). The information, which is provided by UN surveys identifies the importance of sanitation as it is a primary factor in preventing pollutants like sewage from entering clean water sources. Marine life is also experiencing the adverse effects of pollution with 80% of its contamination coming from sources like runoff from agricultural practices. Numerous species are dying annually due to instances like warming water (Rozell, & Reaven, 2012). Various industries will incorporate the use of water in cooling their operation resulting in a discharge of hot water back into the sea. Such water cannot hold enough oxygen leading to the death of marine life and wildlife. This type of contamination is quite dangerous as it affects the daily living of human beings. 

Land Pollution 

The pollution of land surfaces is a common occurrence and probably the most easily recognizable contamination process. The garbage from household and industrial wastes include some of the most regular pollutants. Americans represent only 5% of the total world population but constitute includes30% of the total garbage pollution in the world. A study conducted by Yale University shows that nearly 262 million tons of solid waste are released into landfills. The estimation is by far more than the 122 million tons identified by the EPA as it shows a 115% increase (Freeman, 2015). The recent study also surpasses projections made by the World Band for the year 2025. 

According to the study, nearly five pounds per day of solid waste are released into landfills per person. The estimation is a clear indication of the entire global population’s contribution to land pollution (Powell, Townsend, & Zimmerman, 2016). Through the decomposition of land waste, a lot of GHG gases are produced particularly methane gas. The largest source of methane emission through human activity is the waste taken in landfills. The results of numerous studies show that human beings have been at the forefront of the continued global contamination. 

Noise Pollution 

One of the less recognized environmental contaminants is noise pollution. Even though people cannot actively take note of its occurrence, it still negatively impacts the surroundings. When sounds coming from human-directed activities like airplanes and industrial practices reach harmful levels, they pollute the surrounding. Studies have shown a direct relation between noise pollution and health whereby its occurrence may result in high blood pressure, speech interference, stress-related illnesses, and loss of hearing (Dzhambov & Dimitrova, 2014). Exposure to such harmful noise causes disturbance in the laboratory. However, in the open fields affected persons will adapt to the noise. Exposure to noise pollution leads to increased catecholamine secretion which is a common reaction to stress. Children who are exposed to such high levels of harmful noise are likely to suffer from impaired reading comprehension and poor long-term memory (Francis, Ortega, & Cruz, 2011). 

Light Pollution 

Another less recognized form of pollution is light. Majority of the modern society cannot imagine living in a world without artificial electrical lights. Man-made lights have drastically affected nature in the way night and day work (Gaston, Bennie, Davies, & Hopkins, 2013). Some of the evidence presented is through birds singing at ungodly hours, migration schedules of animals like hippos are affected as the unnatural light causes longer feeding hours and the impact of light pollution also known as sky glow affects the observation of the stars by both professional and amateur astronomers. The above examples are just some of the various negative effects of light on the environment (Falchi, Cinzano, Elvidge, Keith, & Haim, 2011). There are many more that can affect both plant and animal life leading to unnecessary deaths. 


The above discussion of the various types of pollution is a clear indicator of the widespread contamination taking place in the environment. Human activity is by far the largest cause of the degradation of the surroundings. Littering and household garbage cause land pollution, an extended period of lighting causes light pollution, burning of fuels like petrol in cars causes air pollution, dumping of industrial chemical waste in water sources causes water pollution and road traffic noises cause noise pollution. In light of this, it is evident that people can stop or at least slow down the continued contamination. 


Dzhambov, A. M., & Dimitrova, D. D. (2014). Urban green spaces' effectiveness as a psychological buffer for the negative health impact of noise pollution: A systematic review. Noise and Health, 16(70), 157. 

Ebenstein, A. (2012). The consequences of industrialization: evidence from water pollution and digestive cancers in China. Review of Economics and Statistics, 94(1), 186-201. 

Falchi, F., Cinzano, P., Elvidge, C. D., Keith, D. M., & Haim, A. (2011). Limiting the impact of light pollution on human health, environment and stellar visibility. Journal of environmental management, 92(10), 2714-2722. 

Francis, C. D., Ortega, C. P., & Cruz, A. (2011). Noise pollution filters bird communities based on vocal frequency. PLoS one , 6(11), e27052. 

Freeman, D. (2015, Sep 25) America Is Throwing Out Way More Garbage Than We Thought. Huffington Post, Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/america-is-throwing-out-way-more-garbage-than-we-thought_us_56043a35e4b0fde8b0d1a5a3 

Gaston, K. J., Bennie, J., Davies, T. W., & Hopkins, J. (2013). The ecological impacts of nighttime light pollution: a mechanistic appraisal. Biological reviews, 88(4), 912-927. 

Powell, J. T., Townsend, T. G., & Zimmerman, J. B. (2016). Estimates of solid waste disposal rates and reduction targets for landfill gas emissions. Nature Climate Change, 6(2), 162-165. 

Raaschou-Nielsen, O., Andersen, Z. J., Beelen, R., Samoli, E., Stafoggia, M., Weinmayr, G., ... & Xun, W. W. (2013). Air pollution and lung cancer incidence in 17 European cohorts: prospective analyses from the European Study of Cohorts for Air Pollution Effects (ESCAPE). The lancet oncology, 14(9), 813-822. 

Redel-Macías, M. D., Pinzi, S., Leiva, D., Cubero-Atienza, A. J., & Dorado, M. P. (2012). Air and noise pollution of a diesel engine fueled with olive pomace oil methyl ester and petrodiesel blends. Fuel, 95, 615-621. 

Rozell, D. J., & Reaven, S. J. (2012). Water pollution risk associated with natural gas extraction from the Marcellus Shale. Risk Analysis, 32(8), 1382-1393

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