POLLUTION is the introduction of contaminants into the natural
environment that cause adverse change.
Pollution can take the form of
chemical substances or energy , such as noise, heat or light.
Pollutants , the components of pollution, can be either foreign
substances/energies or naturally occurring contaminants.
often classed as point source or nonpoint source pollution .
* 1 History
* 2 Urban pollution
* 3 Forms of pollution
* 5 Cost of pollution
* 6 Sources and causes
* 7 Effects
* 7.1 Human health
* 7.2 Environment
Environmental health information
* 7.4 Worker productivity
* 8 Regulation and monitoring
* 9.1 Practices
Pollution control devices
* 10 Perspectives
* 11 Greenhouse gases and global warming
* 12 Most polluting industries
* 13 World’s Worst Polluted Places
* 14 See also
* 15 References
* 16 External links
Air pollution has always accompanied civilizations.
from prehistoric times when man created the first fires. According to
a 1983 article in the journal _Science,_ "soot " found on ceilings of
prehistoric caves provides ample evidence of the high levels of
pollution that was associated with inadequate ventilation of open
fires." Metal forging appears to be a key turning point in the
creation of significant air pollution levels outside the home. Core
samples of glaciers in Greenland indicate increases in pollution
associated with Greek, Roman and Chinese metal production, but at
that time the pollution was comparatively small and could be handled
Air pollution in the US, 1973
The burning of coal and wood, and the presence of many horses in
concentrated areas made the cities the cesspools of pollution. The
Industrial Revolution brought an infusion of untreated chemicals and
wastes into local streams that served as the water supply. King Edward
I of England banned the burning of sea-coal by proclamation in London
in 1272, after its smoke became 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.
It was the industrial revolution that gave birth to environmental
pollution as we know it today.
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
system soon afterward.
Pollution issues escalated as population growth
far exceeded view ability of neighborhoods to handle their waste
problem. Reformers began to demand sewer systems, and clean water.
In 1870, the sanitary conditions in Berlin were among the worst in
August Bebel recalled conditions before a modern sewer system
was built in the late 1870s: "Waste-water from the houses collected
in the gutters running alongside the curbs and emitted a truly
fearsome smell. There were no public toilets in the streets or
squares. Visitors, especially women, often became desperate when
nature called. In the public buildings the sanitary facilities were
unbelievably primitive....As a metropolis, Berlin did not emerge from
a state of barbarism into civilization until after 1870."
The primitive conditions were intolerable for a world national
capital, and the Imperial German government brought in its scientists,
engineers and urban planners to not only solve the deficiencies but to
forge Berlin as the world's model city. A British expert in 1906
concluded that Berlin represented "the most complete application of
science, order and method of public life," adding "it is a marvel of
civic administration, the most modern and most perfectly organized
city that there is."
The emergence of great factories and consumption of immense
quantities of coal 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.
Pollution became a major issue in the United States in the early
twentieth century, as progressive reformers took issue with air
pollution caused by coal burning, water pollution caused by bad
sanitation, and street pollution caused by the 3 million horses who
worked in American cities in 1900, generating large quantities of
urine and manure. As historian Martin Melosi notes, The generation
that first saw automobiles replacing the horses saw cars as "miracles
of cleanliness.". By the 1940s, however, automobile-caused smog was a
major issue in Los Angeles.
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. 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 .
Awareness of atmospheric pollution spread widely after World War II,
with fears triggered by reports of radioactive fallout from atomic
warfare and testing. Then a non-nuclear event, The
Great Smog of 1952
in London, killed at least 4000 people. This prompted some of the
first major modern environmental legislation, The Clean Air Act of
Pollution began to draw major public attention in the United States
between the mid-1950s and early 1970s, when Congress passed the Noise
Control Act , the Clean Air Act , the
Clean Water Act and the National
Environmental Policy Act .
Severe incidents of pollution helped increase consciousness. PCB
dumping in the
Hudson River resulted in a ban by the EPA on
consumption of its fish in 1974. Long-term dioxin contamination at
Love Canal starting in 1947 became a national news story in 1978 and
led to the Superfund legislation of 1980. The pollution of industrial
land gave rise to the name brownfield , a term now common in city
The development of nuclear science introduced radioactive
contamination , which can remain lethally radioactive for hundreds of
thousands of years.
Lake Karachay , named by the Worldwatch Institute
as the "most polluted spot" on earth, served as a disposal site for
the Soviet Union throughout the 1950s and 1960s. Chelyabinsk , Russia,
is considered the "Most polluted place on the planet".
Nuclear weapons continued to be tested in the
Cold War , especially
in the earlier stages of their development. The toll on the
worst-affected populations and the growth since then in understanding
about the critical threat to human health posed by radioactivity has
also been a prohibitive complication associated with nuclear power .
Though extreme care is practiced in that industry, the potential for
disaster suggested by incidents such as those at
Three Mile Island and
Chernobyl pose a lingering specter of public mistrust. Worldwide
publicity has been intense on those disasters. Widespread support for
test ban treaties has ended almost all nuclear testing in the
International catastrophes such as the wreck of the
Amoco Cadiz oil
tanker off the coast of
Brittany in 1978 and the
Bhopal disaster in
1984 have demonstrated the universality of such events and the scale
on which efforts to address them needed to engage. The borderless
nature of atmosphere and oceans inevitably resulted in the implication
of pollution on a planetary level with the issue of global warming.
Most recently the term persistent organic pollutant (POP) has come to
describe a group of chemicals such as PBDEs and PFCs among others.
Though their effects remain somewhat less well understood owing to a
lack of experimental data, they have been detected in various
ecological habitats far removed from industrial activity such as the
Arctic, demonstrating diffusion and bioaccumulation after only a
relatively brief period of widespread use.
A much more recently discovered problem is the Great Pacific Garbage
Patch , a huge concentration of plastics, chemical sludge and other
debris which has been collected into a large area of the Pacific Ocean
North Pacific Gyre . This is a less well known pollution
problem than the others described above, but nonetheless has multiple
and serious consequences such as increasing wildlife mortality, the
spread of invasive species and human ingestion of toxic chemicals.
Organizations such as
5 Gyres have researched the pollution and, along
with artists like
Marina DeBris , are working toward publicizing the
Pollution introduced by light at night is becoming a global problem,
more severe in urban centres, but nonetheless contaminating also large
territories, far away from towns.
Growing evidence of local and global pollution and an increasingly
informed public over time have given rise to environmentalism and the
environmental movement , which generally seek to limit human impact on
the environment .
FORMS OF POLLUTION
Lachine Canal in
Quebec , Canada. Blue
drain and yellow fish symbol used by the UK
Environment Agency to
raise awareness of the ecological impacts of contaminating surface
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
Light pollution : includes light trespass, over-illumination and
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 .
Soil contamination occurs when chemicals are released by spill or
underground leakage. Among the most significant soil contaminants are
hydrocarbons , heavy metals ,
MTBE , 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
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
Water pollution , by the discharge of wastewater from commercial
and industrial waste (intentionally or through spills) into surface
waters ; discharges of untreated domestic 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 ); waste disposal and leaching
into groundwater ; eutrophication and littering.
Plastic pollution : involves the accumulation of plastic products
in the environment that adversely affects wildlife, wildlife habitat,
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.
COST OF POLLUTION
Pollution has cost.
Manufacturing activities that cause air
pollution impose health and clean-up costs on the whole society,
whereas the neighbors of an individual who chooses to fire-proof his
home may benefit from a reduced risk of a fire spreading to their own
houses. If external costs exist, such as pollution, the producer may
choose to produce more of the product than would be produced if the
producer were required to pay all associated environmental costs.
Because responsibility or consequence for self-directed action lies
partly outside the self, an element of externalization is involved. If
there are external benefits, such as in public safety , less of the
good may be produced than would be the case if the producer were to
receive payment for the external benefits to others.
SOURCES AND CAUSES