What is Pollution?

Pollution is the introduction of contaminants into a natural environment that causes instability, disorder, harm or discomfort to the ecosystem, i.e. physical systems or living organisms. Pollution can take the form of chemical substances or energy, such as noise, heat, or light. Pollutants, the elements of pollution, can be foreign substances or energies, or naturally occurring; when naturally occurring, they are considered contaminants when they exceed natural levels. Pollution is often classed as point source or nonpoint source pollution. The Blacksmith Institute issues annually a list of the world's worst polluted places. In the 2007 issues the ten top nominees are located in Azerbaijan, China, India, Peru, Russia, Ukraine, and Zambia.

Modern awareness:

Pollution became a popular issue after World War II, due to radioactive fallout from atomic warfare and testing. Then a non-nuclear event, The Great Smog of 1952 in London, killed at least 4000 people. This prompted some of the first major modern environmental legislation, The Clean Air Act of 1956.
Pollution began to draw major public attention in the United States between the mid-1950s and early 1970s, when Congress passed the Noise Control Act, the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and the National Environmental Policy Act.

Forms of Pollution:

Above: The Lachine Canal in Montreal is Polluted.

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.
•    Light pollution, includes light trespass, over-illumination and astronomical interference.
•    Littering
•    Noise pollution, which encompasses roadway noise, aircraft noise, industrial noise as well as high-intensity sonar.
•    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.
•    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.
•    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.
•    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.

Water Pollution Sources.


Air pollution comes from both natural and manmade sources. Though globally man made pollutants from combustion, construction, mining, agriculture and warfare are increasingly significant in the air pollution equation.
Motor vehicle emissions are one of the leading causes of air pollution. China, United States, Russia, Mexico, and Japan are the world leaders in air pollution emissions. Principal stationary pollution sources include chemical plants, coal-fired power plants, oil refineries, petrochemical plants, nuclear waste disposal activity, incinerators, large livestock farms (dairy cows, pigs, poultry, etc.), PVC factories, metals production factories, plastics factories, and other heavy industry. Agricultural air pollution comes from contemporary practices which include clear felling and burning of natural vegetation as well as spraying of pesticides and herbicides
About 400 million metric tons of hazardous wastes are generated each year. The United States alone produces about 250 million metric tons. Americans constitute less than 5% of the world's population, but produce roughly 25% of the world’s CO2, and generate approximately 30% of world’s waste. In 2007, China has overtaken the United States as the world's biggest producer of CO2.

Human Health Effects:

Adverse air quality can kill many organisms including humans. Ozone pollution can cause respiratory disease,cardiovascular disease, throat inflammation, chest pain, and congestion. Water pollution causes approximately 14,000 deaths per day, mostly due to contamination of drinking water by untreated sewage in developing countries. An estimated 700 million Indians have no access to a proper toilet, and 1,000 Indian children die of diarrhoeal sickness every day. Nearly 500 million Chinese lack access to safe drinking water. 656,000 people die prematurely each year in China because of air pollution. In India, air pollution is believed to cause 527,700 fatalities a year. Studies have estimated that the number of people killed annually in the US could be over 50,000.
Oil spills can cause skin irritations and rashes. Noise pollution induces hearing loss, high blood pressure, stress, and sleep disturbance. Mercury has been linked to developmental deficits in children and neurologic symptoms. Older people are majorly exposed to diseases induced by air pollution. Those with heart or lung disorders are under additional risk. Children and infants are also at serious risk. Lead and other heavy metals have been shown to cause neurological problems. Chemical and radioactive substances can cause cancer and as well as birth defects.

Pollution in brief
Every year in the U.S. factories release over 3 million tons of toxic chemicals into the land, air and water. This hazardous waste causes us to lose over 15 million acres of land every year, it leads to respiratory complications and other health problems and it makes our rivers and lakes too polluted for us to swim in and drink.
But factories are only part of the problem of pollution. Pollution is caused by industrial and commercial waste, agriculture practices, everyday human activities and most notably, modes of transportation. No matter where you go and what you do, there are remnants of pollution.

What is pollution?
Pollution is the introduction of a contaminant into the environment. It is created mostly by human actions, but can also be a result of natural disasters. Pollution has a detrimental effect on any living organism in an environment, making it virtually impossible to sustain life.

Why are the different types of pollution?
Pollution harms the Earth’s environment and its inhabitants in many ways. The three main types of pollution are:

Land Pollution
Land pollution is pollution of the Earth’s natural land surface by industrial, commercial, domestic and agricultural activities.

What are the sources of land pollution?
Some of the main contributors to land pollution are:
•    Chemical and nuclear plants
•    Industrial factories
•    Oil refineries
•    Human sewage
•    Oil and antifreeze leaking from cars
•    Mining
•    Littering
•    Overcrowded landfills
•    Deforestation
•    Construction debris

Facts about Land Pollution
Here are a few facts about land pollution:

•    Every year one American produces over 3285 pounds of hazardous waste
•    Land pollution causes us to lose 24 billion tons of top soil every year
•    Americans generate 30 billion foam cups, 220 million tires and 1.8 billion disposable diapers every year
•    We throw away enough trash every day to fill 63,000 garbage trucks
•    Every day Americans throw away 1 million bushels of litter out their car window
•    Over 80% of items in landfills can be recycled, but they’re not

How to Prevent Land Pollution
The best way to prevent land pollution is to recycle. Here are a few other ways you can reduce land pollution:
•    Reuse any items that you can
•    Buy biodegradable products
•    Store all liquid chemicals and waste in spill-proof containers
•    Eat organic foods that are grown without pesticides
•    Don’t use pesticides
•    Use a drip tray to collect engine oil
•    Buy products that have little packaging
•    Don’t dump motor oil on the ground

Air Pollution
Air pollution is the accumulation of hazardous substances into the atmosphere that danger human life and other living matter.

What are the sources of air pollution?
Some of the main contributors to air pollution are:
•    Automobile emissions
•    Tobacco smoke
•    Combustion of coal
•    Acid rain
•    Noise pollution from cars and construction
•    Power plants
•    Manufacturing buildings
•    Large ships
•    Paint fumes
•    Aerosol sprays
•    Wildfires
•    Nuclear weapons

Facts about Air Pollution
Here are a few facts about air pollution:
•    Almost 232 million different types of vehicles are driven by U.S. citizens every day, adding greenhouse gases into the air
•    U.S. vehicle emissions contribute 45% to global warming
•    The average adult consumes 3,000 gallons of polluted air every day
•    Vehicle exhaust contributes to 60% of carbon monoxide emissions in the U.S. and up to 95% in large cities
•    Every year 335,000 Americans die of lung cancer, which is a direct result of air pollution

How to Prevent Air Pollution
The number one way to prevent air pollution is to walk or bike more and drive less. This will prevent fossil fuels from polluting the air. Here are some other ways to prevent air pollution:
•    Carpool or join a ride share with friends and coworkers
•    Don’t smoke
•    Keep your car maintenance up-to-date
•    If you have to drive, do your errands at one time
•    Don’t buy products that come in aerosol spray cans
•    Avoid using lighter fluid when barbecuing outside
•    When you drive accelerate slowly and use cruise control
•    Always replace your car’s air filter
•    Use a push or electric lawnmower rather than a gas-powered one
•    Don’t use harsh chemical cleaners that can emit fumes
•    Inspect your gas appliances and heaters regularly

Information Provided by Rachel Segal