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.
Solutions to Environmental Pollution
· Gas emission pollution is being mitigated in a variety of ways with car emission control, electric and hybrid vehicles and public transportation systems. Not all major cities have successful implementation and decent public transportation in place, but the world is working on this issue constantly and we have managed to reduce emissions profoundly over the last decade. There is much catching up to do.
· The cost of radioactive power plants is becoming apparent and the days of coal power plants are nearly dead. The radiation is a serious issue. Radioactive leakage from power plants and nuclear testing have already contaminated oceanic life to such a degree that it will take hundreds of years to return to normal. More radiation solutions are in the works with various ecologically friendly power technologies being built every day.
· Solar power is a fantastic solution. Now that solar radiation is at a climactic peak, we can reap power from the sun using solar panel systems. These range from home systems to larger scale systems powering entire communities and cities.
· Wind power is coming into play. This may not seem like much at first, but when you get about 100 feet off the ground, there is a great deal of wind up there. By building wind turbines to harvest natural wind energy, electricity is produced. Wind turbine power and solar power are both powerful forces against fossil fuel power and radioactive power. The one problem here is power companies. They want to stay with radioactive power plants because they actually can’t be removed. It has become the crusades of many individuals and small corporations to make the switch and there are plenty of people following this as populations cry out for help.
· Electromagnetic radiation (ER) reduction. Once major manufacturers of computers and electronic devices realized the blatant potential for huge ER emissions directly into the eyes and brains of users, they started to implement hardware protocols to minimize risks and reduce ER production significantly. Newer devices are in the lead to knock this problem out and, fortunately, this is working.
Also, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is well aware of all leaks and tricks industries are using to dump wastes. This agency now has extremely strict protocols and testing procedures implemented against such facilities so populations are not affected. Additionally, the EPA is measuring air pollution and implementing regulatory procedures for vehicle emissions. They also monitor pollen issues and, with the help of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), they implement solutions to reduce pollen in the air.
Dropping pollen counts is a major focus for EPA and CDC activities. Asthma and other allergic conditions are flooding medical care facilities and pharmaceutical companies with serious public health problems. The response has been swift and various methods to control emissions and reduce pollen counts are in the works. Children and elderly people are at the highest risk for environmental pollution related health problems. The good news is we are directly on the horizon to cut down the causes and risks while providing practical health solutions for the general public throughout the world.