Environmental Pollution Discussion

March 8, 2022
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Environmental Pollution Discussion

Environmental Pollution Discussion

In the films and the readings, we’ve noticed people’s actions after learning about pollution in their area. As community members, what concerns do you have about the environment in our communities? What have you noticed in your community now that you’ve done these readings? What are your recommendations for improving our communities’ environment?

Pollution is the introduction of contaminants into the natural environment that cause adverse change.[1] Pollution can take the form of any substance (solid, liquid, or gas) or energy (such as radioactivity, heat, sound, or light). Pollutants, the components of pollution, can be either foreign substances/energies or naturally occurring contaminants. Although environmental pollution can be caused by natural events, the word pollution generally implies that the contaminants have an anthropogenic source—that is, a source created by human activities. Pollution is often classed as point source or nonpoint source pollution. In 2015, pollution killed 9 million people worldwide.[2][3]

Major forms of pollution include air pollution, light pollution, litter, noise pollution, plastic pollution, soil contamination, radioactive contamination, thermal pollution, visual pollution, and water pollution.

Environmental Pollution DiscussionForms of pollution

A smog in the center of Moscow, Russia in August 2010
The major forms of pollution are listed below along with the particular contaminant 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.
Electromagnetic pollution: the overabundance of electromagnetic radiation in their non-ionizing form, like radio waves, etc, that people are constantly exposed at, especially in large cities. It’s still unknown whether or not those types of radiation have any effects on human health, though.
Light pollution: includes light trespass, over-illumination and astronomical interference.
Littering: the criminal throwing of inappropriate man-made objects, unremoved, onto public and private properties.
Noise pollution: which encompasses roadway noise, aircraft noise, industrial noise as well as high-intensity sonar.
Plastic pollution: involves the accumulation of plastic products and microplastics in the environment that adversely affects wildlife, wildlife habitat, or humans.
Environmental Pollution DiscussionSoil contamination occurs when chemicals are released by spill or underground leakage. Among the most significant soil contaminants are hydrocarbons, heavy metals, MTBE,[4] 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.)
Thermal pollution, is a temperature change in natural water bodies caused by human influence, such as use of water as coolant in a power plant.
Visual pollution, which can refer to the presence of overhead power lines, motorway billboards, scarred landforms (as from strip mining), open storage of trash, municipal solid waste or space debris.
Environmental Pollution DiscussionWater pollution, by the discharge of industrial wastewater from commercial and industrial waste (intentionally or through spills) into surface waters; discharges of untreated sewage, and chemical contaminants, such as chlorine, from treated sewage; release of waste and contaminants into surface runoff flowing to surface waters (including urban runoff and agricultural runoff, which may contain chemical fertilizers and pesticides; also including human feces from open defecation – still a major problem in many developing countries); groundwater pollution from waste disposal and leaching into the ground, including from pit latrines and septic tanks; eutrophication and littering.

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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, the area affected and the persistence.

Environmental Pollution DiscussionSources and causes
File: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 human-made (anthropogenic) sources. However, globally human-made pollutants from combustion, construction, mining, agriculture and warfare are increasingly significant in the air pollution equation.[5]

Environmental Pollution DiscussionMotor vehicle emissions are one of the leading causes of air pollution.[6][7][8] China, United States, Russia, India[9] Mexico, and Japan are the world leaders in air pollution emissions. Principal stationary pollution sources include chemical plants, coal-fired power plants, oil refineries,[10] 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[11]

About 400 million metric tons of hazardous wastes are generated each year.[12] The United States alone produces about 250 million metric tons.[13] Americans constitute less than 5% of the world’s population, but produce roughly 25% of the world’s CO2,[14] and generate approximately 30% of world’s waste.[15][16] In 2007, China overtook the United States as the world’s biggest producer of CO2,[17] while still far behind based on per capita pollution (ranked 78th among the world’s nations).[18]

Environmental Pollution DiscussionAn industrial area, with a power plant, south of Yangzhou’s downtown, China

Some of the more common soil contaminants are chlorinated hydrocarbons (CFH), heavy metals (such as chromium, cadmium – found in rechargeable batteries, and lead – found in lead paint, aviation fuel and still in some countries, gasoline), MTBE, zinc, arsenic and benzene. In 2001 a series of press reports culminating in a book called Fateful Harvest unveiled a widespread practice of recycling industrial byproducts into fertilizer, resulting in the contamination of the soil with various metals. Ordinary municipal landfills are the source of many chemical substances entering the soil environment (and often groundwater), emanating from the wide variety of refuse accepted, especially substances illegally discarded there, or from pre-1970 landfills that may have been subject to little control in the U.S. or EU. There have also been some unusual releases of polychlorinated dibenzodioxins, commonly called dioxins for simplicity, such as TCDD.[19]

Environmental Pollution DiscussionPollution can also be the consequence of a natural disaster. For example, hurricanes often involve water contamination from sewage, and petrochemical spills from ruptured boats or automobiles. Larger scale and environmental damage is not uncommon when coastal oil rigs or refineries are involved. Some sources of pollution, such as nuclear power plants or oil tankers, can produce widespread and potentially hazardous releases when accidents occur.

In the case of noise pollution the dominant source class is the motor vehicle, producing about ninety percent of all unwanted noise worldwide

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