Environmental pollution is contamination of air, water and land from man-made waste. Pollution leads to depletion of the ozone layer, global warming and climate change. Air pollution is the release of chemicals and particles into the atmosphere. Water pollution includes surface runoff, leakage into groundwater, liquid spills, wastewater discharge and littering. If toxins are spilled on the ground or if an underground storage tank leaks, soil can become contaminated. Well known contaminants include herbicides and pesticides. Toxic waste is waste material, often in chemical form, which pollutes the natural environment and contaminates groundwater.
Further, environmental pollution is a term that refers to all the ways that human activity harms the natural environment. Most people have witnessed environmental pollution in the form of an open garbage dump or an automobile pouring out black smoke. However, pollution can also be invisible, odorless, and tasteless. Some kinds of pollution do not actually dirty the land, air, or water, but they reduce the quality of life for people and other living things. For example, noise from traffic and machinery can be considered forms of pollution.
Environmental pollution is one of the most serious problems facing humanity and other life forms today. Badly polluted air can harm crops and cause life-threatening illnesses. Some air pollutants have reduced the capacity of the atmosphere to filter out the sun's harmful ultraviolet radiation. Most scientists believe that these and other air pollutants have begun to change climates around the world. Water and soil pollution threaten the ability of farmers to grow enough food. Ocean pollution endangers many marine organisms.
Anthropogenic (Human Caused) Sources of Pollution
By the object of pollution:
- Air pollution
- Water pollution
- Soil pollution (contamination) / Land pollution
- Agricultural pollution
- Industrial pollution
- Transport pollution
- Car pollution / Heavy vehicle pollution
- Ship pollution
- Airplane pollution
- Commercial and domestic sector pollution
- Radioactive pollution (contamination)
- Chemical pollution
- Invasive species pollution
- Light pollution
- Noise pollution
- Visual pollution
- Volcanic eruptions
- Dust storms
- Smoke from forest and grass fire
Different Types of Pollution
There are nine basic types of environmental pollution, and each one has detrimental affects on wildlife, human habitation, and the quality of life in the affected area.
Air pollution is defined as any contamination of the atmosphere that disturbs the natural composition and chemistry of the air. This can be in the form of particulate matter such as dust or excessive gases like carbon dioxide or other vapors that cannot be effectively removed through natural cycles, such as the carbon cycle or the nitrogen cycle.
Air pollution comes from a wide variety of sources. Some of the most excessive sources include:
- Vehicle or manufacturing exhaust
- Forest fires, volcanic eruptions, dry soil erosion, and other natural sources
- Building construction or demolition
Depending on the concentration of air pollutants, several effects can be noticed. Smog increases, higher rain acidity, crop depletion from inadequate oxygen, higher rates of asthma, and global warming are all related to increased air pollution.
Water pollution involves any contaminated water, whether from chemical, particulate, or bacterial matter that degrades the water’s quality and purity. Water pollution can occur in oceans, rivers, lakes, and underground reservoirs, and as different water sources flow together the pollution can spread.
Causes of water pollution include:
- Increased sediment from soil erosion
- Improper waste disposal and littering
- Leaching of soil pollution into water supplies
- Organic material decay in water supplies
The effects of water pollution include decreasing the quantity of drinkable water available, lowering water supplies for crop irrigation, and impacting fish and wildlife populations that require water of a certain purity for survival.
Soil, or land pollution, is contamination of the soil that prevents natural growth and balance in the land whether it is used for cultivation, habitation, or a wildlife preserve. Some soil pollution, such as the creation of landfills, is deliberate, while much more is accidental and can have widespread effects.
Soil pollution sources include:
- Hazardous waste and sewage spills
- Non-sustainable farming practices, such as the heavy use of inorganic pesticides
- Strip mining, deforestation, and other destructive practices
- Household dumping and littering
Soil contamination can lead to poor growth and reduced crop yields, loss of wildlife habitat, water and visual pollution, soil erosion, and desertification.
Noise pollution refers to undesirable levels of noises caused by human activity that disrupt the standard of living in the affected area. Noise pollution can come from:
- Manufacturing plants
- Construction or demolition
Some noise pollution may be temporary while other sources are more permanent. Effects may include hearing loss, wildlife disturbances, and a general degradation of lifestyle.
Radioactive pollution is one of the types of pollution that is rare but extremely detrimental, even deadly, when it occurs. Because of its intensity and the difficulty of reversing damage, there are strict government regulations to control radioactive pollution.
Sources of radioactive contamination include:
- Nuclear power plant accidents or leakage
- Improper nuclear waste disposal
- Uranium mining operations
Radiation pollution can cause birth defects, cancer, sterilization, and other health problems for human and wildlife populations. It can also sterilize the soil and contribute to water and air pollution.
Thermal pollution is excess heat that creates undesirable effects over long periods of time. The earth has a natural thermal cycle, but excessive temperature increases can be considered a rare type of pollution with long term effects. Many types of thermal pollution are confined to areas near their source, but multiple sources can have wider impacts over a greater geographic area.
Thermal pollution may be caused by:
- Power plants
- Urban sprawl
- Air pollution particulates that trap heat
- Loss of temperature moderating water supplies
As temperatures increase, mild climatic changes may be observed, and wildlife populations may be unable to recover from swift changes.
Light pollution is the over illumination of an area that is considered obtrusive. Sources include:
- Large cities
- Billboards and advertising
- Nighttime sporting events and other nighttime entertainment
Light pollution makes it impossible to see stars, therefore interfering with astronomical observation and personal enjoyment. If it is near residential areas, light pollution can also degrade the quality of life for residents.
Visual pollution – eyesores – can be caused by other types of pollution or just by undesirable, unattractive views. It may lower the quality of life in certain areas, or could impact property values and personal enjoyment.
Sources of visual pollution include:
- Power lines
- Construction areas
- Billboards and advertising
- Neglected areas or objects such as polluted vacant fields or abandoned buildings
While visual pollution has few immediate health or environmental effects, the other types of pollution that cause an eyesore can have detrimental affects.
Personal pollution is the contamination of one’s body and lifestyle with detrimental actions. This may include:
- Excessive smoking, drinking or drug abuse
- Emotional or physical abuse
- Poor living conditions and habits
- Poor personal attitudes
In some cases, personal pollution may be inflicted by caregivers, while in other cases it is caused by voluntary actions. Taking positive steps in your life can help eliminate this and other types of pollution so you can lead a more productive, satisfying life.
TYPES OF WATER POLLUTION
Pollutants enter the watershed either directly from a traceable source (point source pollution) or through channels that prevent the source from being identified (non-source point pollution). Regardless of the manner in which they enter the water, pollutants can be classified into four types: toxic, sediment, nutrient, and bacterial.
Toxic pollution includes chemicals that poison and kill organisms in and near streams, rivers, lakes, and the Bay. When a body of water has a high level of toxic pollution, fishing for the purpose of human consumption is banned. Even low levels of toxicity can be lethal when chemicals accumulate in predators that consume large amounts of slightly poisoned organisms. Examples of toxic pollution include pesticides and herbicides; gasoline, oil, and other automotive products; household cleaning products; paints and solvents; battery acid; industrial waste chemicals; and toxic substances in car exhaust and solid waste incinerator smoke.
Sediment pollution is dirt, minerals, sand, and silt eroded from the land and washed into the water. It comes from areas where there is inadequate vegetation to slow runoff. Sediment causes several problems for aquatic organisms. First, particles of sediment are suspended in the water. The resulting cloudiness decreases the amount of sunlight that can reach underwater plants that provide food and oxygen for underwater animals. Second, as sediment particles settle, they fill spaces between rocks, destroying the habitat needed by manyunderwater insects and other macroinvertebrates. Sediment also clogs the gills of fish, crabs, and other underwater organisms. Sediment can bury fish and insect eggs, preventing them from hatching, and when it covers an oyster bed, it smothers the oysters.
Nutrient pollution results from an overabundance of nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus. Living things cannot survive without nutrients, but too much can be detrimental to watershed organisms. An overabundance of nutrients leads to escalation in plant growth, particularly of algae and vascular plants. This causes two problems. First, water clouded with too much alga growth does not allow enough sunlight to reach the plants below. Second, when those plants die, the bacteria that decompose them use inordinate amounts of dissolved oxygen. This deprives underwater animals of the oxygen they need to survive. Sources of nutrient pollution include overflow from sewage treatment plants, leakage from improperly maintained septic systems, discharge from factories, and automobile exhaust. Examples of nutrient pollutants include fertilizers, animal manure, discharge from boat toilets, and household detergents.Bacterial pollution occurs when there is an excess of harmful bacteria. There are many beneficial bacteria in the water. Even harmful bacteria in small amounts are safe. In larger concentrations, however, certain types of bacteria can be deadly to fish and animals (including humans) that drink or accidentally ingest the water. Certain bacteria can cause illness if they come in contact with an open wound. Interestingly, most of these harmful bacteria do not affect aquatic insects. Some sources of bacterial pollution include overflow from sewage treatment plants, leakage from improperly maintained septic systems, animal manure, and discharge from boat toilets.