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Environmental Pollution : Effects, Types of Environmental Pollution and their Causes

Last Updated : 01 Aug, 2023
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The environment is defined as a physical system’s surroundings, which may interact with other systems by exchanging mass and energy. All living and nonliving things are included in the natural environment. Because the environment is the setting in which we live, it is our responsibility to keep it safe from harm. Environmental pollution is one of the most serious issues confronting human society today. The three basic areas of environmental pollution are air, water, and soil.

Environment Pollution

Environmental pollution occurs when there is an unfavourable change in the environment that has a negative impact on plants and animals. A pollutant is a substance that causes environmental pollution. 

Pollutants can exist as liquids, solids, or gases. A substance becomes a pollutant when its concentration exceeds its natural abundance, and this increase in concentration is caused by either human activities or natural phenomena. Pollutants can be degraded and rapidly broken down by natural processes similar to vegetable degradation. We also have pollutants that take decades to degrade and, once released, are difficult to remove. DDT, plastics, heavy metals, and nuclear waste are a few examples.

Effects of Environmental Pollution

Pollutants have been observed to originate at one location and then be transported to other locations by the action of wind or water. Humans release some pollutants into the environment. This results in pollution of the air, water, and soil. If the soil becomes polluted, the beneficial microorganisms that live in it will die, and the soil’s fertility will be lost. Crop production will be reduced. It will have a negative impact on human society if the soil is not fertile.

Similarly, if water is contaminated, we must purify it before drinking. Purification necessitates resources. Finally, if the air is polluted, breathing becomes difficult, and life’s survival is jeopardized. Air pollution causes a wide range of respiratory diseases and harms the human body. Environmental pollution has a negative impact on life on Earth and should be reduced as much as possible. We harm nature and nature, in turn, will harm us even more. This must be stopped; our survival is dependent on the environment, so care must be taken to ensure that its balance is maintained.

Types of Environmental Pollution

There are four types of environmental pollution: Air pollution, Water pollution, Soil pollution, and Noise pollution.

Pollutants can be classified into three types based on their nature: Biological (pathogenic organisms, biological products), Chemical (toxic metals, agrochemicals, gaseous pollutants, particulates, hazardous chemicals, carcinogenic substances, petroleum products, acidic or basic substances), and Radiation (ionizing and non-ionizing), Radioactive substances, Sound waves, and Foul odours.

Environmental pollution is increasing at an alarming rate as a result of rapid population growth and industrialization. As a result, sewage and domestic effluents, industrial effluents, agricultural discharges, detergents, toxic metals, and radioactive materials pollute the water. The leaching of various pollutants from the surface has polluted even underground water.

Air Pollution 

The release of pollutants into the atmosphere that are harmful to human health and the environment, such as gases, particles, biological molecules, and so on, is referred to as air pollution.

The atmosphere contains a certain percentage of gases. A change in the composition of these gases is hazardous to survival. The earth’s temperature has risen as a result of this imbalance in the gaseous composition, a phenomenon known as global warming.

Types of Air Pollutants

There are two types of air pollutants:

  1. Primary Pollutants: Primary pollutants are those that directly contribute to air pollution. Factory-emitted sulphur dioxide is a primary pollutant.
  2. Secondary Pollutants: Secondary pollutants are those that are formed as a result of the mixing and reaction of primary pollutants. Smog is a secondary pollutant caused by the mixing of smoke and fog.

Causes of Air Pollution

The following are the major causes of air pollution.

  • Burning of Fossil Fuels: The combustion of fossil fuels produces a significant amount of sulphur dioxide. Carbon monoxide pollution is caused by the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels.
  • Automobiles: Polluting the environment are the gases emitted by vehicles such as jeeps, trucks, cars, and buses. These are the major sources of greenhouse gases, as well as the causes of disease in humans.
  • Agricultural Activities: Ammonia is one of the most dangerous gases produced by agricultural activities. Insecticides, pesticides, and fertilizers release hazardous chemicals into the atmosphere, contaminating it.
  • Factories and Industries: Carbon monoxide, organic compounds, hydrocarbons, and chemicals are primarily produced in factories and industries. These are emitted into the atmosphere, degrading its quality.
  • Domestic Sources: Toxic chemicals are released into the air by household cleaning products and paints. The odour emanating from freshly painted walls is the odour of the chemicals present in the paints. It not only pollutes the air, but it also has an impact on breathing.

Effects of Air Pollution

  1. Diseases: Humans have developed a variety of respiratory and cardiovascular diseases as a result of air pollution. Lung cancer has become more common in recent decades. Children who live near polluted areas are more likely to develop pneumonia and asthma. Every year, many people die as a result of the direct or indirect effects of air pollution.
  2. Global Warming: The gaseous composition of the air is unbalanced as a result of greenhouse gas emissions. As a result, the Earth’s temperature has risen. This rise in the Earth’s temperature is referred to as global warming. As a result, glaciers have melted, and sea levels have risen. Many areas are completely submerged underwater.
  3. Acid Rain: The combustion of fossil fuels emits harmful gases into the atmosphere, such as nitrogen oxides and sulphur oxides. When water droplets combine with pollutants, they become acidic and fall as acid rain, causing harm to human, animal, and plant life.
  4. Ozone Layer Depletion: The main cause of ozone layer depletion is the release of chlorofluorocarbons, halons, and hydrochlorofluorocarbons into the atmosphere. The depleting ozone layer does not protect people from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays, which cause skin diseases and eye problems.
  5. Effect on Animals: Air pollutants settle on bodies of water and harm aquatic life. Animals are also forced to leave their natural habitats due to pollution. This causes them to become stray and has also resulted in the extinction of a large number of animal species.

Water Pollution 

Water pollution is defined as the contamination of bodies of water. Water pollution occurs when rivers, lakes, oceans, groundwater, and aquifers become contaminated with industrial and agricultural effluents.

When water becomes polluted, it has a negative impact on all lifeforms that rely on it, whether directly or indirectly. The consequences of water contamination can be felt for many years.

Sources Of Water Pollution: Water pollution is caused by urbanisation, deforestation, industrial effluents, detergent and fertilizer use, and agricultural run-offs are all examples of pollution.

Effects Of Water Pollution

The impact of water pollution is determined by the type and concentration of pollutants. The location of water bodies is also an important factor in determining pollution levels.

  1. Water bodies in close proximity to urban areas are highly polluted. This is the result of industrial and commercial establishments dumping garbage and toxic chemicals.
  2. Water pollution has a significant impact on aquatic life. It has an effect on their metabolism and behaviour, as well as causing illness and death. Dioxin is a chemical that causes a variety of issues, ranging from reproductive issues to uncontrolled cell growth and cancer. This chemical builds up in seafood, poultry, and meat. Chemicals like this make their way up the food chain before entering the human body.
  3. Water pollution has the potential to have a significant impact on the food chain. It upsets the food chain. Cadmium and lead are two toxic substances that enter the food chain via animals (fish when consumed by animals and humans) and can continue to disrupt at higher levels.
  4. Pollution affects humans, and faecal matter in water sources can cause diseases such as hepatitis. Poor drinking water treatment and contaminated water can always lead to an outbreak of infectious diseases like cholera.
  5. Because of water pollution, the ecosystem can be severely harmed, altered, and destructured.

Soil Pollution 

Soil pollution is the contamination of soil with abnormally high levels of toxic substances.

It is a major environmental concern because it poses numerous health risks. Exposure to soil containing high concentrations of benzene, for example, increases the risk of developing leukaemia. Xenobiotics, which are substances that do not occur naturally in nature but are synthesized by humans, are among the most dangerous soil pollutants. Several xenobiotics have been identified as carcinogens.

The following are the various types of pollutants found in contaminated soil:

  1. Heavy Metals: Heavy metals (such as lead and mercury in abnormally high concentrations) in soils can cause them to become highly toxic to humans. These metals can come from a variety of sources, including mining, agriculture, electronic waste (e-waste), and medical waste.
  2. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons: They are organic compounds with only carbon and hydrogen atoms and multiple aromatic rings in their chemical structures. Naphthalene, anthracene, and phenalene are three examples. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon exposure has been linked to several types of cancer. These organic compounds have also been linked to cardiovascular disease in humans. Soil pollution caused by PAHs can be traced back to coke (coal) processing, vehicle emissions, cigarette smoke, and shale oil extraction.
  3. Industrial Waste: The discharge of industrial waste into the soil can pollute the soil.

Noise Pollution

Noise is an unpleasant and unwelcome sound that causes human discomfort.

The volume of a sound is measured in decibels (dB). The human ear can detect the faintest sound at 1 Db. As civilizations’ populations have grown, noise pollution has become a concern. Among the major causes are vehicles, aircraft, industrial machines, loudspeakers, crackers, and other similar devices. Other appliances, such as televisions, transistors, radios, and so on, contribute to noise pollution when used at high volumes.

Types of Noise Pollution

Transport Noise: It primarily consists of traffic noise, which has increased in recent years as the number of vehicles has increased. Noise pollution causes deafness in the elderly, headaches, hypertension, and other health problems.

  1. Neighbourhood Noise: The sound of gadgets, household utensils, and so on. Musical instruments, transistors, loudspeakers, and other electronic devices are some of the most common sources.
  2. Industrial Noise: It is the high-intensity sound produced by heavy industrial machines. Many studies have found that industrial noise pollution reduces hearing ability by around 20%.

Causes and Sources of Noise Pollution

  1. Industrialisation: Industrialisation has resulted in an increase in noise pollution due to the use of heavy machinery such as generators, mills, and massive exhaust fans, which produce unwanted noise.
  2. Vehicles: The second cause of noise pollution is an increase in the number of vehicles on the road.
  3. Events: Loudspeakers are used to play music at weddings and public gatherings, causing unwanted noise in the neighbourhood.
  4. Construction sites: Noise pollution is exacerbated by mining and building construction.

Other Types of Pollution

Related Links

Important links related to Environmental Pollution are as follows:

  1. Natural Environment
  2. Strategies to Control Environmental Pollution
  3. Business and Environmental Protection
  4. What is Air Pollution?
  5. Water Pollution – Definition, Causes, Prevention
  6. Plastic Pollution
  7. Causes and Effects of Water Pollution
  8. What is Atmospheric Pollution?
  9. Soil Pollution

FAQs on Environmental Pollution

Q 1. What is the environmental pollution?


Environmental pollution is defined as “the contamination of the earth/atmosphere system’s physical and biological components to such an extent that typical environmental processes are adversely affected.”

Q 2. What are the 4 types of environmental pollution?


Major kinds of pollution, are air pollution, water pollution, and land pollution, usually classified as environmental pollution. But these days, people are also concerned about noise pollution, light pollution, and plastic pollution.

Q 3. What is sewage treatment?


Wastewater treatment, also known as sewage treatment, is the process of cleaning or removing all pollutants from wastewater, treating it, and making it safe and suitable for drinking before releasing it into the environment.

Q 4. What are the effects of water pollution?


Water pollution has the potential to devastate the ecosystem. Furthermore, toxic chemicals can enter our bodies through the food chain, causing diseases and death.

Q 5. What are the effects of major air pollutants?


Significant amounts of gaseous pollutants are produced, which have a negative impact on human health. Human activities emit billions of tonnes of pollutants into the atmosphere. Bronchitis, chest congestion, and wheezing are the most common and acute health problems caused by gaseous pollutants.

  • Sulfur dioxide: Sulfur dioxide is a major contributor to lung disease. It causes nasal and mucus lining irritation, shortness of breath, fluid accumulation in tissues, oedema, and bronchospasm.
  • Nitrogen oxides: Nitrogen oxides released from the exhausts of buses, trucks, and two-wheelers irritate the eyes and lungs. Inhaling large amounts of these oxides can cause gum inflammation, internal bleeding, pneumonia, and even cancer.

Q 6. What are the effects of radioactive pollutants?


The effect of radiation on health is determined by a number of factors, including the energy, type and amount of radiation, the individual’s age, and the body part exposed. In humans, ionising radiation may have the following biological effects.

  1. Carcinogenic effects – Ionizing radiation increases the risk of most cancers.
  2. Mutagenic effects – Mutagenic effects change the genetic material, and the mutations are passed down to the offspring.
  3. Teratogenic effects – The embryo’s development is hampered, resulting in birth defects.

Q 7. How is natural soil pollution caused? 


Some pollutants naturally accumulate in soils as a result of extremely rare processes. This can happen as a result of the atmosphere’s differential deposition of soil. Another way for this type of soil pollution to occur is through the transport of soil pollutants with precipitation water. The accumulation of compounds containing the perchlorate anion (ClO4–) in some dry, arid ecosystems is an example of natural soil pollution. It is important to note that some contaminants can be produced naturally in the soil as a result of certain environmental conditions. During a thunderstorm, for example, perchlorates can form in soils containing chlorine and certain metals.

Q 8. What are the effects of noise pollution on human health? 


Noise pollution can endanger human health in the following ways:

  1. Hypertension is a direct result of noise pollution and is caused by elevated blood levels for an extended period of time.
  2. Hearing loss occurs when human ears are repeatedly exposed to loud noises that exceed the range of sound that human ears can withstand, causing eardrum damage and loss of hearing.
  3. Sleeping disorders: A lack of sleep can cause fatigue and a low energy level throughout the day, interfering with daily activities. Noise pollution hampers the sleep cycles leading to irritation and an uncomfortable state of mind.
  4. Cardiovascular issues: Heart-related issues such as blood pressure, stress, and cardiovascular diseases can occur in a healthy person, and a person suffering from any of these diseases may experience a sudden increase in the level.

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