Environmental pollution is one of the biggest challenges that the world is currently facing.
With rapid advancements in industries and technologies, there is a growing number of environmental pollutants. Most of the contaminants cannot be seen with our naked eyes. Hence, it can be challenging to realize the increasing sources of pollutants and the pollution level.
The increasing levels of pollution can be easily witnessed in the US, where 46% of lakes and 40% of rivers are too polluted for aquatic life and even for citizens to fish or swim.
Every day, tons of industrial waste, soil degradation, and harmful chemicals from vehicles and industries are discharged into the environment. With constant soil degradation, most of the world’s topsoil could disappear in the next sixty years.
Multiple reasons contribute to the increasing pollution levels in the world. In this article, you will discover some primary examples of environmental pollution causes. Let’s get started!
What is environmental pollution?
Though environmental pollution is not a recent concept or phenomenon, it remains one of the leading problems in the world. Due to industrialization, urbanization, exploration, infrastructure, mining, and other human activities, global environmental pollution is increasing daily.
The involvement of harmful materials or pollutants in the environment causes environmental pollution. These pollutants can be natural or man-made hazardous ingredients such as chemical or industrial waste.
Pollutants are known for damaging the quality of land, water, and air. In today’s age and time, almost every necessity produces or releases contaminants into the environment. For example, pollutants from the exhaust pipes of vehicles, burning coal for electricity generation, garbage waste in waterways, etc., are some of the everyday pollutants.
This phenomenon is most commonly visible in urban areas as compared to the countryside. Multiple reasons lead to this, such as :
- The number of vehicles
- Construction zones
- Use of pesticides and chemicals, etc.
These can also rapidly spread through air and water currents to remote places with no habitants.
What are the different types of pollution?
Various types of pollutants in the environment can affect the environment in different ways. There are three main types of pollution – air, water, and land/soil. Let’s learn more about them.
There are two types of air pollution: primary and secondary pollutants. Primary pollutants are those that are directly emitted from the source. Secondary pollutants are the ones that are caused when primary pollutants react in the atmosphere.
Sometimes, air pollution is visible in smoke from the exhaust pipes of trucks, factories, industries, etc. But the majority of the time, air pollution is invisible, and it’s challenging to identify the pollutants.
Most of the pollutants that cause air pollution are not natural. For example, the burning of fossil fuels such as oil, natural gas, coal, etc., and fumes produced from vehicles and industries lead to the release of carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, and hydrocarbons.
These pollutants can lead to the creation of smog, a thick fog that consists of smoke and fog. In some places with heavy smog in the air, it can be difficult for people to even see the sun. The color of smog can be gray or brown, depending on the type of pollutants.
Smog can make breathing difficult for people and cause significant respiratory issues, especially for older adults and children. Additionally, it also decreases the air quality in the environment.
Water pollution is another prevalent type of pollution and is a very concerning environmental issue. When the water looks muddy, has floating garbage and other elements, smells bad, and is filled with harmful chemicals, it means that it is polluted.
Polluted water is harmful and unsafe for consumption and also swimming. Consuming dirty water with hazardous chemicals can severely affect human health. According to an estimate by The United Nations, approximately 4,000 children die every day due to the consumption of dirty water.
Additionally, polluted water affects and poses a significant threat to marine life. Oil and natural gas can leak into oceans, creating a toxic environment and affecting aquatic animals. Oil spills are one of the leading sources of water pollution.
The wetlands of the states of Louisiana and Mississippi are coated with oil. This eventually kills aquatic life such as marsh plants, organisms, and animals such as fishes and crabs. Besides affecting marine animals, polluted water also affects aquatic birds like pelicans and makes it difficult for them to fly across or access food in the oceans.
Another major source of water pollution is the emission of fertilizers and pesticides used in agriculture as well as some industries. Fertilizers consist of large amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus. These ingredients can cause grave damage to the oceans and other water bodies.
Some pollutants that damage the water bodies are also harmful to the land and soil. Major pollutants are fertilizers, pesticides, and garbage waste produced by man-made activities.
Trash or garbage waste can include elements like paper, plastic, glass jars, cans, metal products from car junk, other appliances, etc. Garbage litter contains dangerous pollutants like chemicals, oils, and ink. These pollutants can contaminate the soil, plants, animals, and people.
Inefficient and unorganized garbage collection systems contribute majorly to land and soil pollution. Very often, people dump garbage on the streets and contribute to increasing land pollution.
Most often, companies produce trash or harmful garbage in such massive amounts that they run out of landfills. When this happens, landfills also leak harmful pollutants and toxic chemicals that can result in the death of many animals.
Many cities or states in the United States also burn their garbage to get rid of it. Burning the garbage also increases air pollution and releases dangerous chemicals and heavy metals into the air.
Leading causes of environmental pollution
With each passing day, the rising levels of environmental pollution are alarming. As a result, it also contributes to damaging the climatic conditions globally.
While the leading causes of environmental pollution keep increasing, some of the points mentioned below have a major impact. Here are some of the primary causes of environmental pollution across the world.
With the growing population around the world, there is an increase in the number of vehicles. People are traveling more frequently now, and the pollution levels only become higher and higher.
Using vehicles results in the emission of harmful gases into the air, such as carbon monoxide. As everyday traffic increases more and more, so do the pollution levels.
Industries have been a major cause of pollution in our environment. Ever since the beginning of the industrial revolution, there has been a significant increase in pollution levels, primarily due to the growing use of fossil fuels.
Many industries produce garbage and chemical waste that causes air, water, soil, and land pollution. This is particularly visible with industries or factories that generate power, such as power plants.
While agriculture helps produce natural and organic products, it is equally responsible for contaminating water and soil. This is caused due to several agricultural activities like the use of fertilizers and pesticides in the production of crops and plants.
All pesticides and fertilizers are made of harmful chemicals. As agriculture gets more and more extensive, it causes further damage to the environment and ecosystems.
Though it may seem like residential areas may not contribute to the increasing pollution levels, they too are one of the leading causes of different types of pollution like noise pollution, thermal pollution, etc. To begin with, residential areas are built by destroying the natural environment and wildlife. This causes great disruption in the ecosystem.
Residential areas produce massive waste materials with construction work that often takes place. Additionally, using appliances like air conditioners, refrigerators, humidifiers, etc., reduces air quality and increases air pollution.
How can we reduce pollution?
Reducing pollution is one of the most talked about topics globally. Governments worldwide are trying to fight pollution and reduce it as much as possible. Many countries have taken the initiative to recycle trash to process valuable materials that can be used again.
With the help of recycling, communities can reduce the amount of garbage in landfills, water bodies, etc. Countries such as Switzerland and Austria recycle 50 to 60% of their garbage waste.
Additionally, governments can also pass laws limiting the usage of harmful products such as plastic, leading to a decrease in production for them. Reducing pollution requires global leadership efforts. While developed nations can work on reducing and recycling their materials, developing nations can work on strengthening their economic conditions without hampering the environment.
The world is witnessing one of the fastest growing issues with increasing pollution levels. As humans, protecting the environment must be our first and foremost duty. It requires extensive planning, conscious choices, and constant effort.
Ignoring the problem will lead to greater catastrophes and affect life forms everywhere. By taking the right actions, we can significantly reduce pollution and improve our quality of living.