There are several types of pollution, and while they may come from different sources and have different consequences, understanding the basics about pollution can help environmentally conscious individuals minimize their contribution to these dangers. In total, there are nine recognized sources of pollution in the modern world. These sources of pollution don't simply have a negative impact on the natural world, but they can have a measurable effect on the health of human beings as well.
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, and higher rates of asthma. Many scientists believe that global warming is also 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 through the water cycle 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 rare but extremely detrimental, and 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 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, what's causing the 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 sources of pollution so you can lead a more productive, satisfying life.
Pollution Types Are Connected
All types of pollution are interconnected. For example, light pollution requires energy to be made, which means the electric plant needs to burn more fossil fuels to supply the electricity. Those fossil fuels contribute to air pollution, which returns to the earth as acid rain and increases water pollution. The cycle of pollution can go on indefinitely, but once you understand the different pollution types, how they are created, and the effects they can have, you can make personal lifestyle changes to combat poor conditions for yourself and others around you.
What is Pollution?
Pollution, we hear it every other day at school, college and read about it in newspapers. So what is it? Pollution occurs when pollutants contaminate the natural surroundings; which brings about changes that affect our normal lifestyles adversely. Pollutants are the key elements or components of pollution which are generally waste materials of different forms. Pollution disturbs our ecosystem and the balance in the environment. With modernization and development in our lives pollution has reached its peak; giving rise to global warming and human illness.
Pollution occurs in different forms; air, water, soil, radioactive, noise, heat/ thermal and light. Every form of pollution has two sources of occurrence; the point and the non-point sources. The point sources are easy to identify, monitor and control, whereas the non-point sources are hard to control. Let us discuss the different types of pollutions, their causes and effects on mankind and the environment as a whole.
Types & Causes of Pollution
Air Pollution is the most prominent and dangerous form of pollution. It occurs due to many reasons. Excessive burning of fuel which is a necessity of our daily lives for cooking, driving and other industrial activities; releases a huge amount of chemical substances in the air everyday; these pollute the air.
Smoke from chimneys, factories, vehicles or burning of wood basically occurs due to coal burning; this releases sulphur dioxide into the air making it toxic. The effects of air pollution are evident too. Release of sulphur dioxide and hazardous gases into the air causes global warming and acid rain; which in turn have increased temperatures, erratic rains and droughts worldwide; making it tough for the animals to survive. We breathe in every polluted particle from the air; result is increase in asthma and cancer in the lungs.
Water Pollution has taken toll of all the surviving species of the earth. Almost 60% of the species live in water bodies. It occurs due to several factors; the industrial wastes dumped into the rivers and other water bodies cause an imbalance in the water leading to its severe contamination and death of aquatic species. If you suspect that nearby water sources have been contaminated by a corporation then it might be a good idea to hire an expert to see your options.
Also spraying insecticides, pesticides like DDT on plants pollutes the ground water system and oil spills in the oceans have caused irreparable damage to the water bodies. Eutrophication is another big source; it occurs due to daily activities like washing clothes, utensils near lakes, ponds or rivers; this forces detergents to go into water which blocks sunlight from penetrating, thus reducing oxygen and making it inhabitable.
Water pollution not only harms the aquatic beings but it also contaminates the entire food chain by severely affecting humans dependent on these. Water-borne diseases like cholera, diarrhoea have also increased in all places.
Soil pollution occurs due to incorporation of unwanted chemicals in the soil due to human activities. Use of insecticides and pesticides absorbs the nitrogen compounds from the soil making it unfit for plants to derive nutrition from. Release of industrial waste, mining and deforestation also exploits the soil. Since plants can’t grow properly, they can’t hold the soil and this leads to soil erosion.
Noise pollution is caused when noise which is an unpleasant sound affects our ears and leads to psychological problems like stress, hypertension, hearing impairment, etc. It is caused by machines in industries, loud music, etc.
Radioactive pollution is highly dangerous when it occurs. It can occur due to nuclear plant malfunctions, improper nuclear waste disposal, accidents, etc. It causes cancer, infertility, blindness, defects at the time of birth; can sterilise soil and affect air and water.
Thermal/heat pollution is due to the excess heat in the environment creating unwanted changes over long time periods; due to huge number of industrial plants, deforestation and air pollution. It increases the earth’s temperature, causing drastic climatic changes and extinction of wildlife.
Light pollution occurs due to prominent excess illumination of an area. It is largely visible in big cities, on advertising boards and billboards, in sports or entertainment events at the night. In residential areas the lives of the inhabitants is greatly affected by this. It also affects the astronomical observations and activities by making the stars almost invisible.
Effects of Pollution
1. Environment Degradation : Environment is the first casualty for increase in pollution weather in air or water. The increase in the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere leads to smog which can restrict sunlight from reaching the earth. Thus, preventing plants in the process of photosynthesis. Gases like Sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide can cause acid rain. Water pollution in terms of Oil spill may lead to death of several wildlife species.
2. Human Health : The decrease in quality of air leads to several respiratory problems including asthma or lung cancer. Chest pain, congestion, throat inflammation, cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease are some of diseases that can be causes by air pollution. Water pollution occurs due to contamination of water and may pose skin related problems including skin irritations and rashes. Similarly, Noise pollution leads to hearing loss, stress and sleep disturbance.
3. Global Warming : The emission of greenhouse gases particularly CO2 is leading to global warming. Every other day new industries are being set up, new vehicles come on roads and trees are cut to make way for new homes. All of them, in direct or indirect way lead to increase in CO2 in the environment. The increase in CO2 leads to melting of polar ice caps which increases the sea level and pose danger for the people living near coastal areas.
4. Ozone Layer Depletion:Ozone layer is the thin shield high up in the sky that stops ultra violet rays from reaching the earth. As a result of human activities, chemicals, such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), were released int to the atmosphere which contributed to the depletion of ozone layer.
5. Infertile Land : Due to constant use of insecticides and pesticides, the soil may become infertile. Plants may not be able to grow properly. Various forms of chemicals produced from industrial waste is released into the flowing water which also affects the quality of soil.
Pollution not only affect humans by destroying their respiratory, cardiovascular and neurological systems; it also affects the nature, plants, fruits, vegetables, rivers, ponds, forests, animals, etc, on which they are highly dependent for survival. It is crucial to control pollution as the nature, wildlife and human life are precious gifts to the mankind.
Photo by dylanpassmore , dylanpassmore
Rinkesh is passionate about clean and green energy. He is running this site since 2009 and writes on various environmental and renewable energy related topics. He lives a green lifestyle and is often looking for ways to improve the environment around him.
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