What are the Main Types of Pollution?
We hear the word pollution almost every day, but what actually is pollution? And what are the potential effects that we may experience if we don’t change our way of waste?
Pollution is simply the introduction of “contaminants” into the natural environment which subsequently causes an adverse change. Not only can pollution be man-made such as through exhaust pipes on cars or burning coal for electricity, but volcanic ash and forest fires are also examples of naturally made pollution. In the past, visitors to Big Bend National Park in the U.S. state of Texas could see 180 miles across the vast landscape. Now, coal-burning power plants in Texas and the neighboring state of Chihuahua, Mexico have spewed so much pollution into the air that visitors to Big Bend can sometimes see only 30 miles.
There are dozens of types of pollution including light, noise, and visual pollution however these are not as pressing as the main three which include air, water, and land pollution.
Air pollution can be visible when looking at the dark smoke coming from trucks or large factories, but the effects are often invisible. The Chernobyl & Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disasters were two of the most extreme cases of both air and water pollution. In Chernobyl, the ruined plant released 100 times more radiation into the air than the fallout from the nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and in Fukushima, by 2016 the amount of contaminated water leakage from the meltdown exceeded 760,000 tonnes, while this year they plan to release further 1.25 million tons of wastewater into the ocean. Polluted water is unsafe for drinking and swimming. Some people who drink polluted water are exposed to hazardous chemicals that may make them sick years later. Others consume bacteria and other tiny aquatic organisms that cause disease. The United Nations estimates that 4,000 children die every day from drinking dirty water.
An even worse event in 1984 was known as the Bhopal disaster in India is considered to be one of the largest industrial disasters on record. A runaway reaction in a tank containing poisonous methyl isocyanate caused the pressure relief system to vent large amounts to the atmosphere at a Union Carbide India Limited plant. India's government indicated there were almost 560,000 casualties (about 100x Chernobyl), including tens of thousands of serious injuries. The Bhopal disaster is easily more lethal and injurious than Chernobyl. Both the sites remain haunted, abandoned, and unfit to flourish any living civilizations.
One of the largest natural disasters includes volcano eruptions; whether based in the highly volcanic Reykjanes Peninsula in Iceland or centuries ago during the eruption of Vesuvius. This buried the surrounding cities and land in molten rock, pulverized pumice, and hot ash at 1.5 million tons per second, ultimately releasing 100,000 times the thermal energy of the atomic bomb. Most victims of Vesuvius were not actually killed by lava or landslides. They were choked, or asphyxiated, by deadly volcanic gases.
Many of the same pollutants that foul the water also harm the land. Mining sometimes leaves the soil contaminated with dangerous chemicals. Pesticides and fertilizers from agricultural fields are blown by the wind. They can harm plants, animals, and sometimes people. Some fruits and vegetables absorb the pesticides that help them grow. When people consume fruits and vegetables, pesticides enter their bodies. Some pesticides can cause cancer and other diseases.
It is not the end of the world, however, many groups around the world are making efforts to combat pollution whether through political action, lobbying, or simply doing their part for the world by recycling and reusing things around them. Governments can combat pollution by passing laws that limit the amount and types of chemicals factories and agribusinesses are allowed to use. The smoke from coal-burning power plants can be filtered. People and businesses that illegally dump pollutants into the land, water, and air can be fined millions of dollars. Some government programs, such as the Superfund program in the United States, can force polluters to clean up the sites they polluted.
International agreements can also reduce pollution. The Kyoto Protocol, a United Nations agreement to limit the emission of greenhouse gases, has been signed by 191 countries. Reducing pollution requires environmental, political, and economic leadership. Developed nations must work to reduce and recycle their materials while developing nations must work to strengthen their economies without destroying the environment. Developed and developing countries must work together toward the common goal of protecting the environment for future use.