Pollution is the introduction of contaminants into an environment that causes instability, disorder, harm or discomfort to the ecosystem i.e. physical systems or living organisms which can come "in the form of chemical substances, or energy such as noise, heat or light". "Pollutants can be naturally occurring substances or energies, but are considered contaminants when in excess of natural levels."
Environmental pollution is a problem both in developed and developing countries. Factors such as population growth and urbanization invariably place greater demands on the planet and stretch the use of natural resources to the maximum.
Forms of pollution
The major forms of pollution are listed below along with the particular pollutants relevant to each of them:
- Air pollution, the release of chemicals and particulates into the atmosphere. Common gaseous air pollutants include carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and nitrogen oxides produced by industry and motor vehicles. Photochemical ozone and smog are created as nitrogen oxides and hydrocarbons react to sunlight. Particulate matter, or fine dust is characterized by their micrometer size PM10 to PM2.5.
- Water pollution, by the release of waste products and contaminants into surface runoff into river drainage systems, leaching into groundwater, liquid spills, wastewater discharges, eutrophication and littering.
- Soil contamination occurs when chemicals are released by spill or underground leakage. Among the most significant soil contaminants are hydrocarbons, heavy metals, MTBE, herbicides, pesticides and chlorinated hydrocarbons.
- Radioactive contamination, resulting from 20th century activities in atomic physics, such as nuclear power generation and nuclear weapons research, manufacture and deployment. (See alpha emitters and actinides in the environment.)
- Noise pollution, which encompasses roadway noise, aircraft noise, industrial noise as well as high-intensity sonar.
- Light pollution, includes light trespass, over-illumination and astronomical interference.
- Visual pollution, which can refer to the presence of overhead power lines, motorway billboards, scarred landforms (as from strip mining), open storage of trash or municipal solid waste.
- Thermal pollution, is a temperature change in natural water bodies caused by human influence, such as use of water as coolant in a power plant.
Air Pollution Effects
- Reduced lung functioning
- Irritation of eyes, nose, mouth and throat
- Asthma attacks
- Respiratory symptoms such as coughing and wheezing
- Increased respiratory disease such as bronchitis
- Reduced energy levels
- Headaches and dizziness
- Disruption of endocrine, reproductive and immune systems
- Neurobehavioral disorders
- Cardiovascular problems
- Premature death
Water Pollution Effects
Waterborne diseases caused by polluted drinking water:
Waterborne diseases caused by polluted beach water:
- Rashes, ear ache, pink eye
- Respiratory infections
- Hepatitis, encephalitis, gastroenteritis, diarrhoea, vomiting, and stomach aches
Conditions related to water polluted by chemicals (such as pesticides, hydrocarbons, persistent organic pollutants, heavy metals etc):
- Cancer, incl. prostate cancer and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma
- Hormonal problems that can disrupt reproductive and developmental processes
- Damage to the nervous system
- Liver and kidney damage
- Damage to the DNA
- Exposure to mercury (heavy metal):
In the womb: may cause neurological problems including slower reflexes, learning deficits, delayed or incomplete mental development, autism and brain damage
In adults: Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer's disease, heart disease, and even death
- Water pollution may also result from interactions between water and contaminated soil, as well as from deposition of air contaminants (such as acid rain)
- Damage to people may be caused by fish foods coming from polluted water (a well known example is high mercury levels in fish)
- Damage to people may be caused by vegetable crops grown / washed with polluted water (author's own conclusion)
Soil Pollution Effects
- Causes cancers including leukaemia
- Lead in soil is especially hazardous for young children causing developmental damage to the brain
- Mercury can increase the risk of kidney damage; cyclodienes can lead to liver toxicity
- Causes neuromuscular blockage as well as depression of the central nervous system
- Also causes headaches, nausea, fatigue, eye irritation and skin rash
- Contact with contaminated soil may be direct (from using parks, schools etc) or indirect (by inhaling soil contaminants which have vaporized)
- Soil pollution may also result from secondary contamination of water supplies and from deposition of air contaminants (for example, via acid rain)
- Contamination of crops grown in polluted soil brings up problems with food security
- Since it is closely linked to water pollution, many effects of soil contamination appear to be similar to the ones caused by water contamination
Noise pollution Effects
- Hearing defects.
- Ischemic heart disease
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