What is pollution?
Pollution is the process of substances being introduced to an environment that are potentially dangerous or toxic/harmful. There are lots of different types of pollution and even more potential pollutants.
What are the different types of pollution?
There are three significant types of pollution: air pollution, water/ocean pollution, and land pollution. In addition, the main types of pollutants are noise pollution, thermal pollution, light pollution, chemical pollution, and plastic pollution.
Let’s delve a little deeper into each of these types of pollution.
Plastic pollution is one of the most significant environmental issues humans face. It threatens our environment and the wildlife within it. So put, plastic pollution is caused by the fact that plastic is highly durable and hard to break down safely, and incredible amounts of plastic products are produced yearly. As a result, used plastics are being found in all sorts of places, including in the ocean, on beaches, lakes, and rivers, and even in some of the most remote parts of the world. Discarded plastics also pose a considerable threat to wildlife and ecosystems.
Plastic production also uses natural resources/fossil fuels that we run out of at incredible speed. Natural products such as coal, crude oil, and natural gas, which are extracted from the earth, are needed to make these products. The manufacturing process also releases harmful gases into the air, contributing to global warming and air pollution.
Plastic is also tough to dispose of. As it is not biodegradable, it can take decades to break down. It also can’t be burned, as this releases toxins into the air. So, discarded plastics often end up buried in landfills, floating in bodies of water, or littering the sides of the road.
Did you know more than 300 million tonnes of plastic are produced yearly? That’s not far off the total weight of the human population on Earth! By the end of the century, it is estimated that 30 billion tonnes will be produced. The impact on the Earth will be huge.
A significant contributor to ocean pollution is plastic, particularly single-use plastic. These materials pose a considerable threat to marine life. It is thought that over eight million tonnes of plastic find its way into the ocean yearly. It can be anything from plastic bags to food wrappers and even glitter.
Plastic bags are one of the biggest culprits. For example, a plastic bag floating in the ocean can look like a jellyfish, which is what sea turtles like to eat. Different plastics also release chemicals that make them smell like food to seabirds, so they often accidentally eat plastic instead of real food.
Did you know… 8 million tonnes of plastic waste ends up in the ocean yearly?
That’s not all the ocean has to deal with, either. Ocean pollution includes oil, toxic metals, chemicals, petroleum, agricultural runoff, sewage, etc. Humans use these substances and often end up in the ocean for several reasons.
Air pollution is the presence of a harmful substance in the air. Air is a mixture of various gases, including oxygen, carbon dioxide, hydrogen, and nitrogen. When a dangerous substance is introduced to the Earth’s atmosphere, it can cause diseases, damage to living organisms such as plants and animals, and even death in humans. Unfortunately, cities are familiar places for air pollution to be present.
Some sources of air pollution in cities include:
- Construction industries and factories produce dust, dirt, and smoke;
- Indoor cooking;
- Waste burning.
Air pollution can come from familiar household sources, including:
- Products like cigarettes;
- Wall paints;
- Spray products such as bleach, cleaning sprays, and washing machine detergent;
Land pollution is harmful solid or liquid waste materials on land or underground that can contaminate the soil, causing unsightly, foul-smelling, or threatening public health.
It is one of the most visible forms of pollution. Mountains of rubbish on landfill sites or discarded on the side of roads can ruin beautiful landscapes and interfere with wildlife and habitats. Factories can leak chemical waste into the soil, destroying habitats and harming wildlife. Toxic soil can also cause human diseases, skin conditions, and cause cancers.
Chemical pollution is the introduction of toxic contaminants. Artificial products generally introduce chemical pollutants. Typical causes of chemical pollution are pesticides, fertilizers, detergents, oil, sewage, and industrial chemicals.
Chemical pollution is particularly harmful to the ocean. Toxic chemicals often end up in streams and rivers that eventually flow into the sea. Chemicals such as fertilizers are used because they are great for helping plants grow. However, as practical as they are, if they get blown away, it is easy for them to make their way into the ocean and can cause algae to grow. It isn’t good because too many algae will absorb vast amounts of oxygen from the area, making it uninhabitable for most marine life.
Light pollution is caused by artificial light, such as street lamps. While street lighting and other forms of artificial light can be highly beneficial to humans, they can harm the environment, particularly the ocean.
Artificial light beneath the water’s surface can hurt marine life. For instance, small fish can become more visible, meaning their predators can see them as more accessible. Artificial light can also affect the natural circadian rhythms of fish, disrupting their feeding patterns, reproduction, and more.
Noise pollution is simply disturbing or unwanted noise that is harmful or interferes with humans or wildlife. Unlike most other pollutants, noise is invisible and can’t be tasted or smelled. It can be dangerous, though. For example, dolphins and whales use sound to communicate with each other and navigate underwater. So, when artificial noise interferes, it can affect communication, migration, hunting, and reproduction patterns.