What is Environmental Pollution?

Updated: Aug 3, 2021

According to the Encyclopedia Britannica "Pollution, also called environmental pollution, is the addition of any substance (solid, liquid, or gas) or any form of energy (such as heat, sound, or radioactivity) to the environment at a rate faster than it can be dispersed, diluted, decomposed, recycled, or stored in some harmless form. The major kinds of pollution, usually classified by the environment, are air pollution, water pollution, and land pollution".




Excellent definition but, WHAT DOES IT REALLY MEAN?

Here is a simple example: The total average atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) in 2019 was 409.8 parts per million (ppm for short), and this is the most significant amount we had in over 800.000 years, according to Rebecca Lindsey! The problem is that our CO2 sinks, oceans and forests, can't absorb that much CO2 and most of it remains in the atmosphere.

The atmosphere is then overpopulated by CO2 particles that contribute significatively to global warming.

CO2 is a significative example of a gas added to the environment at a rate faster than it can be dispersed, diluted, decomposed, recycled, or stored in some harmless form.

 

What is air pollution?

We talk about air pollution when gases and small particles, particulate matter (PM), are released in the air, and they cause damage to our and our planet health.




What are the causes of air pollution?

There are a lot of air pollution sources but, to be brief, I will list here only the most important and the ones we can directly control.

Vehicle Exhaust emission

Why? Vehicles fumes consist of a mixture of gases and particles that contribute to global warming and are dangerous for our health.

How do we reduce it?

Avoid using your car when possible. Use public transports or environmentally friendly solutions.

Carpooling

Have car emissions tested regularly


Fossil fuels and wood-burning

Why? When we burn fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas to create electricity, we release CO2 pollution into the atmosphere. Most fireplaces, wood-burning stoves and other appliances that use wood, coal and smokeless coal as fuel release toxic organics particles (VOC), that are considered to be cancerogenic and cause heart and lung diseases.

How do we reduce it?

  • Save energy.

  • Use a gas and electricity supplier that provides energy from renewable sources.

  • Do not use your fireplace!


Household Activities

Why? Yes, when we clean our home, we produce indoor air pollution.

Why? We use a wide range of household chemicals every day to clean and decorate our homes. These products can contain chemicals called volatile organic compounds, VOCs. These compounds are well known to trigger respiratory diseases.


How do we reduce it?

  • Use polishes and hair sprays in well-ventilated areas.

  • Install exhaust hoods or fans in the kitchen and bathroom to reduce humidity

  • Ensure that the entire house, office or car is properly ventilated

  • Do not smoke indoor

  • Get rid of odours; don't cover them.

  • Make your homemade cleaners.

  • Dust, dust, dust

  • Don't use shoes indoor.

  • Do not use air fresheners.

  • Use houseplants to naturally purify indoor air.


Farming

Why? During digestion, cattle emit methane, which has a major impact on greenhouse gas emissions. The negative effect of methane on the environment has been found to be 23 times more than the effect of CO2. The average cow releases between 70 and 120 kg of methane per year. In addition, ammonia and particulate matter emitted from farms can cause respiratory health problems in farmworkers and local communities. The livestock industry is choking the Earth, responsible for 14.5% of all greenhouse gas emissions. Farming livestock contributes around 6 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide) to the atmosphere each year. As well, waste lagoons emit considerable ammonia emissions from rotting waste and fertilizer.


How do we reduce it?

  • Introduce a fully plant-based diet in your everyday life.



 

What is water pollution?


On Earth there are about one and a half billion cubic meters of water, 97% of which consists of saltwater from the seas and the remaining 3% consists of freshwater in the form of lakes, rivers, underground water iceboxes. Water is usually considered an unlimited good, divided into only two varieties, sweet and salty.

In reality, the waters can be distinguished on the basis of other characteristics:

  • physical type (temperature, colour, turbidity)

  • chemical type (the content of salts, gases, chemicals);

  • biological type (presence of microorganisms)

Polluting water means changing its characteristics in such a way as to make it unsuitable for the purpose for which it is intended.


Types of water pollution

There are several types of water pollution:

  • civil: it derives from city discharges when water is poured into rivers or directly into the sea without any treatment

  • industrial: made up of different substances that depend on industrial production;

  • agricultural: linked to the excessive and incorrect use of fertilizers and pesticides, which, being generally water-soluble, penetrate the soil and contaminate the aquifers.

Some chemicals present in water are particularly dangerous for human health and for the survival of many living species, such as some metals (chromium, mercury) or compounds such as chlorinated solvents.

What are the causes of water pollution?


Industrial waste contains a large number of pollutants, and their composition varies according to the type of production process. Their impact on the environment is complex: often the toxic substances contained in these discharges mutually reinforce their harmful effects and therefore, the overall damage is greater than the sum of the single effects.

The chemical fertilizers used in agriculture and the sewage produced by the farms are rich in organic substances which, washed away by the rain, go to pour into the aquifers or the surface water bodies. To these substances are often added more or less large debris, which settles on the bottom of the basins.

How do we reduce it?


Changing habits at home

  • Use fewer chemicals to clean.

  • Dispose of waste properly.

  • Don't flush medications down the toilet.

  • Do not throw garbage down the drain at home.

  • Save water.

  • Avoid using plastic


Changing habits in your garden

  • Do not use pesticides and herbicides.

  • Remove the concrete surfaces and replace them with a green carpet.

  • Prevents soil erosion from occurring .

  • Collect and compost garden waste.


Expand the range of action

  • Act green even at school or at work.

  • Help clean up beaches or rivers in your area.

  • Stand up for the water pollution happening in your area.


 

What is land pollution?






The soil is the set of natural bodies existing on the Earth's surface, even in places modified or created by man with earthy materials, containing living matter, and capable of hosting a plant consortium in the open air. It constitutes a natural body in continuous evolution: it derives in fact from the action performed, over time, of various formation factors (climate, lithology and living organisms) which gives rise to pedogenesis (set of physical, chemical and biological processes that lead to the of a soil). Soil performs an essential function for life on Earth, as it allows the life of plants, animals and humans. At the same time, it is a limited resource that is easily destroyed.

When we talk about land pollution, we refer to those phenomena that alter the chemical, physical and biological balance; for instance, radioactive materials, toxic materials, chemicals and pathogens.

This phenomenon has, as direct consequences, the landslide, which makes the soil stability precarious. When the soil is not compact, all the pollutants penetrate the aquifers and contaminate watercourses compromising their quality.

The most significant effects on human health are linked to the direct contact of people with contaminated land areas. Many diseases are due to the intake of contaminated water, the entry of toxic substances into the food chain (for example through animals that have grazed on polluted land or the consumption of vegetables), and the inhalation of vaporized compounds. . There is a wide range of harmful effects on human health, especially chronic ones. The extent of the damage depends on several variables, which are the type and quantity of contaminant, the mode and time of exposure, and individual genetic factors. Heavy metals, such as lead, are extremely dangerous for young children, in whom there is a very high risk of developing brain and nerve damage; in adults, however, they can cause severe kidney damage. Chemical elements, such as mercury, are also known to induce a higher incidence of kidney damage, sometimes irreversible. There are also many other effects, which are milder and less dangerous, such as nausea, headache, fatigue and eye irritation.

What are the causes of land pollution?


Here is a list of the most harmful pollutants:


• non-bio-degradable products such as the infiltration of sewage from a landfill.

• products used in the phytosanitary field.

• fertilizers.

• release of industrial waste on the ground.

• accidental leaks from underground industrial tanks.

• hydrocarbons.

• dioxins.

• use of chemicals in excessive doses such as fertilizers and pesticides.

• infiltration of solid waste including microplastic.

• fracking or the extraction of hydrocarbons using a hydraulic fracture.

How do we reduce it?


Reduce Waste

  • Reduce the use of products that are harmful to the environment.

  • Reduce the amount of plastic you use.

  • Reduce the amount of garbage.

  • Reduce your paper consumption.



Use Water Responsibly


  • Plant native plant species and organize your crops to reduce any losses. These measures will help reduce the use of water and lawn chemicals needed for garden maintenance.

  • Water your lawn less frequently. Make sure you water it more deeply and in the morning when the temperature is cooler. This will prevent the soil from depleting nutrients from over-watering, and reduce the need for fertilizer while stimulating root growth deep into the ground.

  • Use a filter system to purify tap water instead of buying bottled water, because not only is it expensive, it generates large amounts of waste.

  • Carry a reusable bottle of water, preferably aluminium rather than plastic, with you when travelling or at work.



Reuse and recycle


  • Find paper or plastic disposal alternatives.