What is Environmental Pollution?
Pollution is the contamination of the environment by introduction of contaminants that can cause damage to environment and harm or discomfort to humans or other living species. It is the addition of another form of any substance or form of energy to the environment at a rate faster than the environment can accommodate it by dispersion, breakdown, recycling, or storage in some harmless form.
Environmental pollution is one the greatest challenges that the world is facing today. It began since industrial revolution, increasing day by day and causing irreparable damage to Mother Earth. Environmental pollution has its own causes, effects and solutions. Looking into these will help you identify the causes and what steps you can take to mitigate those effects. Broadly, environmental pollution consists of six basic types of pollution, i.e. air, water, land, soil, noise, and light.
When people think of environmental pollution, most focus on fossil fuel and carbon emissions, but there are different contributing factors. Chemical pollution in bodies of water contributes to illnesses. Electromagnetic pollution has effects on human health but is uncommonly considered in present times despite the fact we essentially expose ourselves to it on a daily basis. Taking a look at causes and effects of environmental pollution will pull any mind on a rapid downward spiral. Solutions are in the works and, if we work together across the world, there is hope remaining, at least for the time being.
The environment will continue to deteriorate until pollution practices are abandoned.
~ B. F. Skinner
Causes of Environmental Pollution
- Pollution from cars, trucks, and other vehicles is and has been our major environmental pollution issue for almost a century now. The problem is we did not realize this until the problem had manifested to monumental proportions.
- Fossil fuel emissions from power plants which burn coal as fuel contributed heavily, along with vehicles burning fossil fuels, to the production of smog. Smog is the result of fossil fuel combustion combined with sunlight and heat. The result is a toxic gas which now surrounds our once pristine planet. This is known as “ozone smog” and means we have more problems down here than we do in the sky.
- Carbon dioxide is another product from all of the vehicles on the planet as well as unreformed power plants and other industrial facilities. A continually growing population of humans and clear cutting of forests has exacerbated this problem so natural defenses are no longer present and carbon dioxide levels are on the rise.
- Water pollution is a major issue. Many industries dump wastes into rivers, lakes, ponds, and streams in an attempt to hide wastes from EPA inspectors. These water sources feed major crops and food becomes contaminated with a variety of chemicals and bacteria, causing rampant health problems.
- Radiation comes into play as well. This is an exceedingly nasty pollution issue and requires extensive description. Primarily, there is radiation from the sun. As the natural ozone layer around the Earth has become depleted. The sun is wonderful, but the only reason we are able to survive on this planet so close to the sun is due to the fact of natural shielding against solar radiation. As the protective ozone layer around the planet has become thinner, ultraviolet radiation has risen significantly, causing increases in skin cancers and other types of cancer in all countries, killing millions of people every year.
- More radiation is a problem. The sun shining brightly on a naked planet is not the only source of radiation we are exposed to. Electromagnetic radiation is another insidious culprit. Once upon a time, the major concern around this type of radiation was due to high tension wires which carry huge amounts of electricity to cities. Now, we even carry sources of this radiation with us as cell phones, laptops, tablets and other wireless devices.
Effects of Environmental Pollution
- The polluting gases mentioned above have an interesting effect on climate. Essentially, these gases form a veil around the planet which holds heat in, increasing the overall temperature of the planet. The rise in planetary temperature, or global warming, is not immediately noticeable. However, even a rise of a few degrees Centigrade causes catastrophic changes in weather. This is happening now.
- Pollen has increased. It is ironic, but even with fewer trees in the world; the increase of carbon dioxide emissions induces plants such as ragweed and many trees to produce more pollen than ever before. This has resulted in rampant allergies across the world, affecting the health of billions of people.
- One of the solutions to tamp out carbon monoxide emissions from coal burning power plants was and still is to use radioactive power plants. While this does cut down on gas emissions significantly, there is radioactive waste which causes various cancers to bloom in major cities and small towns all around while destroying ecosystems entirely.
- Global temperature has risen significantly over the years. The protective atmosphere is further being polluted by methane gas released from melting icecaps. This is causing rampant weather issues around the planet.
This all seems like a fairly bleak outlook for the planet and all the creatures on it. It is, in fact, a load of dark and very real truth. For much of it, there is little turning back. Being realistic, though solutions are in the works to combat global warming, the hope is dim. Radiation does not go away quickly either, especially in a technological age requiring more power, more gas, and intensified depletion of protective gases around the planet. We are on a significant downhill snowball ride to hell. There are things we can do. Let us take a look at some of the solutions which are currently being implemented to reduce pollution.
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.
Photo by: Pixabay
Environmental pollution refers to the introduction of harmful pollutants into the environment. These pollutants contaminates the environment. It has a hazardous effect on the natural world and on the activities of living beings.
The major types of environmental pollution are air pollution, water pollution, noise pollution, thermal pollution, soil pollution and light pollution.
Deforestation and hazardous gaseous emissions also leads to environmental pollution. During the last 10 years, the world has witnessed severe rise in environmental pollution.
We all live on planet earth, which is the only planet known to have an environment, where air and water are two basic things that sustain life. Without air and water the earth would be like the other planets – no man, no animals, no plants. The biosphere in which living beings have their sustenance has oxygen, nitrogen, carbon dioxide, argon and water vapor. All these are well balanced to ensure and help a healthy growth of life in the animal world. This balance does not only help the life-cycles of animals and plants, but it also creates the perennial sources of minerals and energies without which the human civilization of to-day could not be built. It is for this balance that the human life and other forms of existence have flourished on earth for so many thousands of years.
Also read: Short paragraph on Pollution
But man, as the most intelligent animal, never stopped being inquisitive, nor was he content with the bounties of nature. His quest for knowledge and search for security succeeded in exploring newer and wider avenues of mysteries that remained baffling so long. Man’s excursions into the darkest regions of mysteries laid foundations for the stupendous civilization, for the conquests of men had ensured their domination in their world and gave them a key to control all the forces in nature.
With the dawn of the age of science and technology, there has been huge growth and development of human potentials. And, it is here that man first began losing control and became prisoner of his own creations.
Also read: Pollution: Different Types of Pollution
Sources and Causes
The sources and causes of environmental pollution includes the following:
- Industrial activities: The industries all over the world that brought prosperity and affluence, made inroads in the biosphere and disturbed the ecological balances. The pall of smoke, the swirling gases, industrial effluents and the fall-out of scientific experiments became constant health hazards, polluting and contaminating both air and water. The improper disposal of industrial wastes are the sources of soil and water pollution. Chemical waste resulting from industry can pollute lakes, rivers and seas and soil too as well as releasing fumes.
- Dumping solid waste: Household and commercial waste pollutes the environment when not disposed of properly.
- Vehicles: The smoke emitted by vehicles using petrol and diesel and the cooking coal also pollutes the environment. The multiplication of vehicles, emitting black smoke that, being free and unfettered, spreads out and mixes with the air we breathe. The harmful smoke of these vehicles causes air pollution. Further, the sounds produced by these vehicles produces causes noise-pollution.
- Rapid urbanization and industrialization: The urbanization and the rapid growth of industrialization are causing through environmental pollution the greatest harm to the plant life, which in turn causing harm to the animal kingdom and the human lives.
- Population overgrowth: Due to the increase in population, particularly in developing countries, there has been surge in demand for basic food, occupation and shelter. The world has witnessed massive deforestation to expand absorb the growing population and their demands.
- Combustion of fossil fuels: The combustion of fossil fuels pollutes the air, the soil and the water with noxious gases such as CO2 and CO.
- Agricultural waste: Fertilizers and pesticides used in agriculture are key causes of environmental pollution.
Also read: Sources of Water, Air and Soil Pollution
Environmental Pollution can have devastating effects on sea life, on crops and on human health. It affects all plant, human and animal life in a negative way. Almost all of our gains in the fields of industrial progress, science and technology had so far been realized at the cost of our health. Even our flora and fauna were found to be threatened with extinction.
All this really leaves us wondering if all our achievements and industrial civilization really help us climb the peaks of prosperity or simply take us down the blind alleys of adversity. It is not only in India, but all over the world – even in Europe and U.S.A. – that the question is being raised whether all is well with our industrial growth and progress in the field of science and technology. Many crusaders against environmental pollution are vehemently protesting against the indiscriminate violations committed daily in the name of development.
The environmental pollution is not caused by the fall-out from nuclear tests or industries alone. The smoke left behind the automobiles and other vehicular traffic, the increasing use of synthetic detergents, nitrogen fertilizers and insecticides contaminate both air and water.
- The water we drink the vegetables are all contaminated to-day. As a result of this contamination our world is afflicted with a quite a number of incurable diseases.
- Environmental pollution affects water sources which mean that there is less fresh water available for drinking, washing, cooking and irrigating crops.
- Nothing in this world is immune, no life is safe and the future of this world is bleak.
- The factories are mostly built in populated areas and the smoke-emitting vehicles ply through the congested areas. Besides causing immense disturbances, there are increasing case of pulmonary tuberculosis and thrombosis and various sorts of brain and heart complications.
- Air-pollution may cause severe lungs-diseases, asthma, brain-disorder diseases, etc.
- Soil-pollution may have negative effect on farm output ratio. It can also contaminate the ground water.
- Noise-pollution have negative effects on hearing or auditory sense organs. It can also cause deafness, tiredness, and mental losses.
- The heat generated by industries and vehicles causes thermal pollution by raising the environmental temperature of the nearby areas.
- Many scientists believe that we are living in an era of mass extinction, due to human made environmental pollution.
The birth of mills and factories is the result of the growth of industry in this machine-predominated age. As long as they will be there, they must emit smoke, pollute the air and hasten our end by slow-poisoning.
The worst industrial environment tragedy occurred at Bhopal on December 3, 1984 as a result of toxic and poisonous leakage of methyl isocyanate (MIC) gas from a multi-national Union Carbide pesticides manufacturing plant. Over 2000 people including woman and children were killed, and hundreds were severely hurt.
What then is the remedy? A lot of pollution derives from human activity. As a result, it is we humans who will be able to stop pollution. But, there surely cannot be any radical solution, for the existing factories cannot be bodily lifted to a place far from the populated zone. However, the following attempts can be made to solve the problem of environmental pollution.
- The Government can at least see that future factories are set up at a distant place, an industrial complex far away from the township.
- Researcher may find out how to avoid harmful smoke from running vehicles.
- Deforestation should be stopped and Forestry should be developed.
- Discharge of Factory wastes in rivers should be banned so as to make the river-water free from pollution.
- Recycle the sewage or in all events it can be disposed of in such a way as to prevent it from polluting the environment.
- Reducing the amount that we buy, reusing and repairing items wherever possible, and recycling as much as we can will all help to reduce the amount of waste dumped in the environment. When we do need to throw away waste we should do so responsibly.
- Organic farming could be one solution for reducing environmental pollution levels.
- Using fewer plastics.
- Disposing of litter and chemicals responsibly.
- Burning fewer fossil fuels.
- The UN Conference on Human Environment was convened to study the profound changes in the relationship between man and his environment in the wake of modern scientific and technological developments.
- The World Health Organization also set up an international network for the monitoring and study of air pollution on a global scale and for devising possible remedies.
We can very well notice the abnormal behaviour of the seasons – the cycle developing clogs in its wheels; and the worried experts fear that the disturbed balance in the biosphere has assumed such serious proportion that very soon our world would be uninhabitable like Hiroshima of 1945. But it is heartening to find the entire world aware of the menace. Some of the advanced countries have already taken some measures to meet it. If we fail to restore the ecological balance right now, it would be too late tomorrow.
Updated with input article from ‘Laura’.
Category: Blog, EnvironmentTagged With: Environment, Pollution