environmental pollution is a term that

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Humans tài khoản for only 0.01% of all life on Earth, yet our impact on the planet is profound. Though unintentional, human activities lượt thích transportation, manufacturing, and agriculture generate environmental pollution – a catch-all term that describes various types of introduced contaminants which can disrupt ecosystems, natural processes, and biological life.

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From air pollution to tát water pollution, climate change to tát smog, understanding the consequences of our actions is the first step in managing environmental issues.

What Is Environmental Pollution?

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines pollution as “any substances in water, soil, or air that degrades the natural quality of the environment; offends [the senses]; causes a health hazard; or [impairs] the usefulness of natural resources.”

Put simply, pollution is any substance that causes harm upon entering the environment.

There are many ways to tát classify pollution, but one common framework distinguishes “point source” – or pollution that comes from a single identifiable source – from “non-point source,” which is trickier to tát pin down.

Smokestacks from power plants emit carbon dioxide and particulate matter. Leakage from gasoline storage tanks. Discharge pipes at a wastewater treatment plant. A drainage ditch on a feedlot that seeps into groundwater – These are all examples of point-source pollution.

Nonpoint-source pollution, by contrast, is wider spread, originating from many sources spanning large areas. For example, agricultural runoff containing fertilizers, pesticides, and particulate matter from thousands of acres of farmland is considered a non-point source. Urban and suburban runoff containing oil, grease, pet waste and other hazardous materials is also non-point source pollution.

That said, there are many types of pollution that cause a wide range of environmental problems. The list that follows offers a glimpse into several of these types.

7 Types of Pollution and Their Causes

The main causes of environmental pollution include urbanization and industrialization, agricultural activities, mining, burning of fossil fuels, plastic and particulate matter. These all contribute to tát the following:[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/2″ css=”.vc_custom_1652269195828{padding-right: 20px !important;}”][image_swap img_align=”center” image_id=”55088″ image_id2=”55097″ alt=”graphic showing the sources of air pollution according to tát the WHO” alt2=”graphic showing the solutions to tát air pollution according to tát the WHO” caption_url=”url:https%3A%2F%2Fwww.ccacoalition.org%2Fen%2Fnews%2Fworld-health-organization-releases-new-global-air-pollution-data|title:Source%3A%20WHO|target:_blank”][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_column_text]

Air pollution

Air pollution is caused by harmful gases and aerosols (solids and liquids suspended in the air) that are released through both natural processes and human activities. Wildfires and volcanoes, for example, release particulate matter and greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. A majority of air pollution, however, is generated by human activities, including the burning of fossil fuels lượt thích coal, natural gas, and oil for electricity, transportation, and industry.

Common air pollutants include:

  • Particulate matter (dust, dirt, soot, smoke, etc.)
  • Direct greenhouse gases such as methane (CH4), carbon dioxide (CO2), and nitrous oxide (CH4), trap heat in the atmosphere and contribute to tát climate change.
  • Indirect greenhouse gases such as carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), are released during the burning of fossil fuels and biomass (e.g. wood). These compounds chemically react in the atmosphere to tát khuông more dangerous substances that intensify climate change and harm human health.

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Managing air pollutants is possible. For example, a 1987 ban on CFCs (a common pollutant used in refrigeration) averted the destruction of the ozone layer, which is crucial in protecting the earth from UV rays and global warming.

Similarly, since the establishment of the Clean Air Act and other laws, stricter regulations have limited emissions and improved air quality in developed countries such as the United States.

The outsourcing of industry to tát developing countries, however, has consequently resulted in the outsourcing of pollution, with the world’s top economies still responsible for millions of pollution deaths in poorer countries.

Water pollution

Water is an important natural resource that is crucial to tát all life on earth, though only .5% of earth’s water is fresh, accessible, and drinkable.

Water pollution in the khuông of microbial pathogens, nutrients, and hazardous substances contaminates both freshwater and saltwater ecosystems, harming aquatic life and public health.

One notable example of water pollution is nonpoint-source agricultural pollution.  After intense rain events, agricultural fertilizers, pesticides, and particulate matter from eroded soil can enter streams, rivers, lakes, bays and even oceans. From here, excess concentrations of nutrients lượt thích phosphorous and nitrogen spur the growth of algal blooms, which deplete the water of oxygen in a process known as eutrophication. The resulting “fish kills,” “dead zones,” and drinking water crises are common throughout the United States, from the Great Lakes to tát the Gulf of Mexico. Agricultural practices that build soil health and minimize synthetic inputs can actually reduce water pollution.

In addition to tát agricultural runoff, other sources of water pollution include:

  • Industrial waste may include organic compounds, heavy metals, nutrients or radioactive material.
  • Marine dumping (when garbage and other waste products are dumped into the ocean)
  • Solid wastes, wastewater, and sewage that escape outdated treatment plants pose a threat to tát human health and aquatic ecosystems, introducing hazardous compounds and pathogens into waterways.
  • Oil leaks and oil spills are high-profile examples of water pollution.

Greenhouse gases can actually affect water quality. The ocean, for example, is a “carbon sink,” meaning it absorbs CO2 from the atmosphere. This actually acidifies the ocean, making it inhospitable for certain creatures.

Although water pollution is serious business, it is not without solutions. New efforts focused on sensitive watersheds aim to tát limit agricultural pollution through nutrient load limits and waste management incentives, while laws lượt thích the Clean Water Act regulate industrial waste in developed countries.

Local and national efforts to tát restore wetlands are underway in many places, which recognize the importance of wetlands in mitigating the effects of pollution. Wetlands not only trap sediments and particulate matter, filtering harmful nutrients and chemicals, but also tư vấn a wealth of biodiversity.

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Plastic pollution

Of the 380 million tons of plastic produced per year, some 31 million tons will enter the environment and around 8 million will enter the ocean.

As they degrade in the environment, plastic bottles and plastic waste becomes “microplastics,” small particles of plastic that find their way into food chains, soil, rain, snow – even our lungs – in high levels. A recent study demonstrates that people ingest around a credit card’s worth of microplastics every week, with yet unknown health effects.

Some scientists speculate chemical toxicity from microplastics might affect pregnancy or cause cancer. Others fear “nano-plastics” – plastic particles even smaller still – may enter cells and disrupt cellular activity. Mitigation efforts such as re-cycling only go so sánh far; for example, much of the plastic that is “re-cycled” is not, in fact, recycled, instead of shipped to tát developing countries where it re-enters the environment.

Soil contamination

Contaminated soils are common throughout the industrialized world, with the most common pollutants including agrochemicals, petrochemicals, microplastics, acid rain, and industrial waste.

In some cases, soils are polluted through agricultural practices, including the application of pesticides, fertilizers, and irrigation water that contain microbial pathogens, heavy metals lượt thích cadmium, lead, mercury and arsenic, and other bio-toxic substances. While some pesticides and herbicides degrade readily, other agrochemicals are “persistent,” meaning the agrochemical and its byproducts linger in the soil, sometimes up to tát 10 years.

Other sources of contaminated soil include industrial waste. These may be known as “brownfields” — areas that require remediation before they are suitable for human use.

When contaminated soil comes in direct tương tác with humans and wildlife via food or dust, or indirectly by seeping into drinking water, a number of negative health effects may result depending on the contaminant, concentration, and exposure.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row content_placement=”middle” css=”.vc_custom_1652268919771{padding-left: 5px !important;}”][vc_column width=”1/2″ css=”.vc_custom_1652268991048{border-top-width: 0px !important;border-right-width: 0px !important;padding-top: 0px !important;padding-right: 5px !important;padding-bottom: 0px !important;padding-left: 5px !important;}”][vc_raw_html css=”.vc_custom_1652268896897{padding-right: 20px !important;}”]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[/vc_raw_html][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″ css=”.vc_custom_1652269037162{border-top-width: 0px !important;border-right-width: 0px !important;border-bottom-width: 0px !important;border-left-width: 0px !important;padding-top: 5px !important;padding-right: 0px !important;padding-bottom: 5px !important;padding-left: 5px !important;}”][vc_column_text]

Noise pollution and light pollution

Seemingly harmless compared to tát plastic, water, and air pollution, noise and light pollution can damage ecosystems. Often associated with urbanization, noise pollution is defined by the EPA as “unwanted or disturbing sound” and light pollution as “excessive brightness that causes discomfort.” Both noise and light pollution can harm human health and wildlife, affecting sleep, decreasing fitness, and altering behavior.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Radioactive contamination

When thinking about radioactive contamination, Fukushima or Chernobyl may come to tát mind. However, radioactive contamination is more widespread than vãn these isolated incidents, with possibly 45,000 sites contaminated with radioactive materials across the US, according to tát the EPA.

Radioactive contaminants are generated by uranium mines, nuclear reactors, and test laboratories, where they can enter the environment.

For example, uranium mining can release radiation into the soil, at which point rain washes this material into drinking water. In fact, up to tát 170 million Americans drink tap water contaminated with radioactive materials. High levels of exposure to tát these materials can cause cancer, reproductive dysfunction, and myriad other health effects.

Electromagnetic pollution

Much of the technology we use today — from our cell phones to tát our laptops to tát the wi-fi that connects them — generates an electromagnetic field. At certain frequencies and exposure levels, this energy can be considered toxic (for example, strong fields have been shown to tát cause burns). That being said, the jury’s still out on whether our current exposure to tát electromagnetic energy is detrimental to tát human health and wildlife.

You can visit EPA.gov for a more complete list of the types of pollution and their consequences, as well as other environmental science resources.

Environmental Pollution and Farming

From pesticides to tát fertilizer runoff, from greenhouse gas emissions to tát harmful particulates, the by-products of modern agriculture can have unintended consequences for ecosystems and human health.

As mentioned, agriculture can be a source of non-point source water pollution, causing algal blooms, but can also contribute to tát air pollution, soil pollution, noise pollution, and even plastic pollution. Several causes of agricultural pollution include:

Particulate matter erodes from farm fields and enters waterways as runoff, causing sedimentation (i.e. the clouding of water) and subsequent harm to tát aquatic ecosystems. Agrochemicals such as pesticides that contaminate soil, directly damaging above- and below-ground ecosystems.

The manufacturing of agrochemicals — especially synthetic nitrogen — is a large contributor to tát greenhouse gas emissions. Agricultural plastics used for weed control, representing over 12 million tons annually, are often not disposed of properly. In many cases, these plastics find their way into ecosystems and soil as microplastics.

Although agricultural pollution is grave, the issue is not without solutions. You can learn more about agricultural pollution, as well as how to tát minimize your farm’s environmental footprint, here.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_section content_placement=”middle” css=”.vc_custom_1650028888335{background-position: center !important;background-repeat: no-repeat !important;background-size: cover !important;}”][vc_row content_placement=”middle”][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_single_image image=”54740″ img_size=”large” alignment=”right”][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″ font_color=”#343434″][vc_column_text el_class=”limited_width”]

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