The Daily Puppy

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Pollution

Pollution


Air pollution from World War II weapon production in Alabama
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.[1] 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 an annual 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.[2]

Official acknowledgement

Official acknowledgement

King Edward I of England banned the burning of sea-coal by proclamation in London in 1272, after its smoke had become a problem. But the fuel was so common in England that this earliest of names for it was acquired because it could be carted away from some shores by the wheelbarrow. Air pollution would continue to be a problem in England, especially later during the industrial revolution, and extending into the recent past with the Great Smog of 1952. London also recorded one of the earlier extreme cases of water quality problems with the Great Stink on the Thames of 1858, which led to construction of the London sewerage system soon afterward.
It was the industrial revolution that gave birth to environmental pollution as we know it today. The emergence of great factories and consumption of immense quantities of coal and other fossil fuels gave rise to unprecedented air pollution and the large volume of industrial chemical discharges added to the growing load of untreated human waste. Chicago and Cincinnati were the first two American cities to enact laws ensuring cleaner air in 1881. Other cities followed around the country until early in the 20th century, when the short lived Office of Air Pollution was created under the Department of the Interior. Extreme smog events were experienced by the cities of Los Angeles and Donora, Pennsylvania in the late 1940s, serving as another public reminder.[7]

Forms of pollution

Forms of pollution

The Lachine Canal in Montreal Canada, 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 pollutants include carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and nitrogen oxides produced by industry and motor vehicles. Photochemical ozone and smog are created as nitrogen oxides and hydrocarbons react to sunlight. Particulate matter, or fine dust is characterized by their micrometre size PM10 to PM2.5.

  • 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 intentionally, by spill or underground leakage. Among the most significant soil contaminants are hydrocarbons, heavy metals, MTBE,[9] 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. (See alpha emitters and actinides in the environment.)

Pollutants

Pollutants

A pollutant is a waste material that pollutes air, water or soil. Three factors determine the severity of a pollutant: its chemical nature, the concentration and the persistence.

Sources and causes

Ship Tracks Reveal Pollution's Effects on Clouds.ogv
Air pollution produced by ships may alter clouds, affecting global temperatures.
Air pollution comes from both natural and man made sources. Though globally man made pollutants from combustion, construction, mining, agriculture and warfare are increasingly significant in the air pollution equation.[10]
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,[14] 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[15]
About 400 million metric tons of hazardous wastes are generated each year.[16] The United States alone produces about 250 million metric tons.[17] Americans constitute less than 5% of the world's population, but produce roughly 25% of the world’s CO2,[18] and generate approximately 30% of world’s waste. In 2007, China has overtaken the United States as the world's biggest producer of CO2.[21]

Effects

Effects

Human health

Overview of main health effects on humans from some common types of pollution
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.[27] Nearly 500 million Chinese lack access to safe drinking water.[28] 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.[29] Studies have estimated that the number of people killed annually in the US could be over 50,000.[30]
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.

Greenhouse gases and global warming

Greenhouse gases and global warming

Historical and projected CO2 emissions by country.
Source: Energy Information Administration
Carbon dioxide, while vital for photosynthesis, is sometimes referred to as pollution, because raised levels of the gas in the atmosphere are affecting the Earth's climate. Disruption of the environment can also highlight the connection between areas of pollution that would normally be classified separately, such as those of water and air. Recent studies have investigated the potential for long-term rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide to cause slight but critical increases in the acidity of ocean waters, and the possible effects of this on marine ecosystems.