This paper explores three websites with the scholarly reports about pollution and its effects in order to conduct research on the environmental effects of pollution. Also, it has referred to the books namely, Understanding Environmental Pollution, and Pollution: Causes, Effects, and Control by Hill, M. K. and Harrison, R.M., respectively. Hill has explained the wide definition of pollution which is helpful to evaluate further research. Harrison has mentioned various causes, effects and possible preventive measure for the pollution. Further, the article by Hsiung, and Sunstein are helpful to understand the effects of pollution of bio-system. Overall research has been conducted by focusing only on scholarly, well-reported, and reliable facts and sources.
The Environmental Effects of Pollution
As stated by the US Senator Gaylord Nelson on first Earth Day in 1970,“The economy is a wholly owned subsidiary of the environment. All economic activity is dependent upon that environment with its underlying resource".
The statement further explains the human domination on the Earth’s ecosystem. In the past, no one bothered to consider that human acts are significantly damaging our environment. In the twentieth century, many people willingly ignored mass pollution if the source of contamination was a factory, thus favoring the economic benefits of industrialization. However, such ignorance about the pollution is causing massive, devastating effects on today’s society and environment. The purpose of this paper is to highlight the environmental effects of pollution, its causes, and possible preventive measures.
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Any substance introduced into the environment that negatively affects the usefulness of a resource can be called as a ‘pollutant’. Almost any substance, natural or synthetic, can pollute the environment; however, it is synthetic and other industrial chemicals that are causing more harm to the environment. Further, environmental pollution can be defined as an emission of energy or material into land, air, or water that creates or may create chronic or acute impairment to the ecological balance of the Earth or that reduces the quality of life. Pollutants often cause primary impact, with visible effects on the environment, or secondary impact in terms of disruptions in the eco-system that are visible only over a long time.
According to the European Commission, the Pacific Ocean is known as the “World’s Largest Landfill” for the garbage and trash, discharged from the world. As estimated by National Geographic, 3.5 million tons of garbage are located in this landfill, which is the result of pollution released into the Pacific Ocean. The landfill is spread upon 3.45 million square kilometers’ area, which is almost the size of Europe. According the survey of Green Networld, around 73 various types of pesticides and chemicals have been identified in groundwater, which is a potential source of drinking water. Almost 40 percent of the lands of the United States are drained by the Mississippi river. However, the river carries approximately 1.5 million metric tons of nitrogen contaminants into the Gulf of Mexico annually, causing the increased number of dead zones in the Gulf every summer. Annually, there are about 250 million cases of water-related diseases, causing around 5 to 10 million deaths. The contamination of drinking water is a major issue for about half of the world’s population. According to the World Health organization (WHO), a resident of Cairo takes in over 20 times the normal, acceptable level of air pollution every day. According to the reports of the World Bank, each year, the pollution causes 2.42 billion dollars’ worth of losses to the Egyptian environment, which is almost 5 percent of the country’s annual overall domestic product. Only about one-tenth of all recyclable waste in the United States gets recycled.
Types and Causes of Pollution
Depending on the pollutants and sources, pollution can be categorized between water pollution, air pollution, soil pollution, and radioactive pollution. Such various types of pollutions create devastating impact on the environment.
It is difficult to imagine a modern society without the benefits of the chemical industry. Petrochemicals, pharmaceuticals, agrochemicals, industrial, and consumer chemicals - all these products contribute to our modern lifestyles. However, chemicals and wastes, which are discharged from such industries into the ocean, cause massive water contamination and pollution. Also, air pollution is a major cause of damaged environment. Pollutants like sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, carbon dioxide, and other gaseous chemicals are polluting the environment. The excessive usage of pesticides and insecticides and release of industrial wastes drastically damage the fertility of soil, causing soil pollution. Also, radioactive pollution is the new and most dangerous threat to the environment. It can occur due to emission of radioactive chemicals into the atmosphere, accidents or malfunction at nuclear plants, and improper disposal of nuclear wastes.
Effects of Pollution
Many researches and studies have constantly warned about the direct and indirect effects of pollution. Various types of pollutions cause enormous negative effects on the environment and eco-system.
Ozone Depletion. Ozone exists in the upper atmosphere, around 12 to 30 miles above the ground. It is essential for the existence of life on Earth as it protects the radioactive effects of sun beams by intercepting them from the atmosphere. However, due to the pollution, the protective layer of ozone has become thinner since the last ten years. Especially at the South Pole, ozone concentration has fallen by almost 40 percent. If the ozone layer keeps decreasing, life on Earth will be exposed to the excessive ultraviolet radiations, eventually leading to termination of life on Earth.
Greenhouse Effect. Since the past two centuries, emission of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, chlorofluorocarbons, sulfur dioxides have been increased dramatically. According to the scientists, increasing amount of greenhouse gases may affect the Earth’s climate. The accumulated carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is gradually warming the overall atmosphere. According to the researchers, if the greenhouse gases continue to increase at the current rate, by the end of the century, there would be 2 C increase in the temperate of Earth, which can result into global warming, increased sea-level, floods, and threat to the life of humans and other living beings.
Acid Rain. Sulfuric acid rain is the cause of excessive release of sulfur dioxide from industrial power-plants into the atmosphere. Acid rain oxidizes limestone and metals, which damages wildlife, vegetation, and also damages metal infrastructures. At present, due to the acid rain, Sweden’s forests have suffered a drastic reduction in growth rate since the early 1950s. Also, acid rain has threatened the existence of fish like salmon and trout. Besides, acid rain affects soil microorganisms, resulting in increased fungal and bacterial pathogens in the soil.
Effects on Biological Systems
Plants. Plants are essential for life on Earth, considering the only organisms capable of producing food and primary source of the pyramid of food-chain. However, plants are not capable to sustain the pollution and its effects. By means of sunlight, various pollutants combine to generate peroxyacetyl nitrate (PAN), which is extremely dangerous for plants. PAN causes electrolyte and nutrient imbalances, which result into the death of the cells. The other element of photochemical smog is phyto-toxic. Phyto-toxic prevents the photosynthesis mechanism, causing the death of plants due to the lack of food production
Animals. Animals are directly affected to the pollution. Acid rain is affecting the marine life. Also, air pollution and radiation are causing the diseases like, skin cancer, nervous system irritation, kidney and liver damage, reduced reproduction and even threat of death. Soil pollution is causing the direct impact on the primary food chain, thus have a negative impact on secondary and other layers of the food chain, which are dependent on it. Also, global warming is destroying the natural habitat of many animals like polar bears, cheetah, pandas, which are on the level of extinction.
Since the late twentieth century, growing concern and recognition about the pollution and its direct effects on the environment has encouraged the development and adoption of technologies and methods to curb the effects of pollution. In order to control the pollution, many countries in the world have adopted a pollution control program, which maintains the particular level of emission of chemicals and other gases into the environment. To avoid the potential environmental pollution related to the water contamination, programs like waste minimization, water management, and recycling should be encouraged. Also, reduced usage of vehicles, development of eco-friendly products, and increased application of solar energy can help to prevent further losses to the environment due to the pollution.
Pollution is the global issue. It significantly affects the environment and eco-system. Today, due to the excessive pollution, many environmental and social problems are generated. If it continues with the current rate, there is a strong threat of extinction of life on Earth. Therefore, in order to avoid possible threats and further damages, the government needs to adopt various pollution preventing programs. Also, every individual needs to be aware and act responsibly to protect our eco-system.