What Are the 7 Different Types of Pollution?

Pollution is the process by which land, water, air or any other part of the environment becomes dirty and not safe or suitable to use. This can be done by introducing a pollutant into a natural environment, but the pollutant does not have to be tangible. Things as simple as light, sound, and temperature can be considered pollutants when artificially introduced into an environment.

Toxic pollution affects more than 200 million people worldwide, according to Pure Earth. In some of the most polluted places on earth, babies are born with birth defects, children have lost 30 to 40 IQ points and life expectancy can be as short as 45 years due to cancer and other diseases. Read on to learn more about specific types of pollution.

There are seven major forms of pollution include air pollution, water pollution, land pollution, radioactive pollution, noise pollution, light pollution, plastic pollution and thermal pollution.

What is Pollution?

Pollution also called environmental pollution, the addition of any substance such as solid, liquid, 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.

Pollution is the introduction of harmful substances into the environment. These harmful substances are called pollutants. Pollutants can be natural, such as volcanic ash. They can also create by human activities, such as waste or runoff from factories. Pollutants damage the quality of air, water and land.

The main types of pollution that are usually classified by environment are air pollution, water pollution, and land pollution. Modern society is also concerned about certain types of pollutants such as noise pollution, light pollution, and plastic pollution. Pollution of all kinds can have a negative impact on the environment and wildlife, and often impacts human health and well-being.

Many things useful to humans cause pollution. Cars spew pollutants out of their exhaust pipes. Burning coal to generate electricity pollutes the air. Industries and households generate waste and sewage that can pollute land and water. Pesticides — chemical toxins used to kill weeds and insects — seep into watercourses and harm wildlife.

Pollution is a global problem. Although urban areas are usually more polluted than rural areas, pollution can spread to remote places where no people live. For example, pesticides and other chemicals have been found in the Antarctic ice sheet. In the middle of the northern Pacific Ocean, a huge accumulation of microscopic plastic particles forms the so-called Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

Pollution is the introduction of harmful materials into the environment. These harmful materials are called pollutants.

Types of Pollution

There are seven major forms of pollution include air pollution, water pollution, land pollution, radioactive pollution, noise pollution, light pollution, plastic pollution and thermal pollution.

1. Air Pollution

Air pollution is probably one of the most serious environmental problems facing our civilization today. Mostly it is caused by human activities like mining, construction, transportation, industrial work, farming, smelting etc.

However, natural processes such as volcanic eruptions and forest fires can also pollute the air, but their occurrence is rare and usually has a local impact, in contrast to human activities, which are ubiquitous causes of air pollution and contribute to global air pollution every day.

Air pollution is when harmful gases and chemicals float in the air. Think of the smog covering some areas in California and New York. Dirt, soot, exhaust fumes and other aerosols get into the air. These pollutants can rise into the atmosphere and infect our clouds by creating acid rain, or they can just hang around like smog, making it difficult for people to breathe.

However, most air pollution is not natural. It comes from burning fossil fuels – coal, oil and natural gas. When gasoline is burned to power cars and trucks, it produces carbon monoxide, a colorless and odorless gas. The gas is harmful in high concentrations or quantities. Highly concentrated carbon monoxide is produced in city traffic.

Cars and factories produce other common pollutants, including nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide and hydrocarbons. These chemicals react with sunlight to create smog, a dense fog or haze of air pollution. The smog is so thick in Linfen, China that people can rarely see the sun. Smog can be brown or gray-blue, depending on the pollutants it contains.

Smog makes breathing difficult, especially for children and older adults. Some cities suffering from extreme smog are issuing air pollution warnings. The Hong Kong government, for example, will warn people not to go outside or engage in strenuous physical activity (like running or swimming) when the smog is very thick.

Greenhouse gases are another source of air pollution. Greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane occur naturally in the atmosphere. In fact, they are necessary for life on earth. They absorb the sunlight reflected from the earth and prevent it from escaping into space. By trapping heat in the atmosphere, they keep the earth warm enough for humans to live. This is called the greenhouse effect.

2. Water Pollution

Water pollution happens when toxic substances enter water bodies such as lakes, rivers, oceans and so on, getting dissolved in them, lying suspended in the water or depositing on the bed. This degrades the quality of water.

Not only does this spell disaster for aquatic ecosystems, the pollutants also seep through and reach the groundwater, which might end up in our households as contaminated water we use in our daily activities, including drinking.

Polluted water is not suitable for drinking and swimming. Some people who drink polluted water are exposed to dangerous chemicals that can make them sick years later. Others consume bacteria and other tiny aquatic organisms that cause disease. The United Nations estimates that 4,000 children die every day from drinking dirty water.

Sometimes polluted water harms people indirectly. They get sick because the fish living in polluted water are unsafe to eat. They have too many toxins in their meat.

There are some natural sources of water pollution. For example, oil and natural gas can enter oceans and lakes from natural underground sources.

Human activities also contribute to water pollution. Chemicals and oils from factories are sometimes dumped or seep into waterways. These chemicals are called runoff. Mining and drilling can also contribute to water pollution. Oil spills are another source of water pollution.

A major source of water pollution is fertilizer used in agriculture. Fertilizer is a material added to the soil to make plants grow bigger and faster. Fertilizers usually contain large amounts of the elements nitrogen and phosphorus, which help plant growth. Rainwater washes fertilizer into streams and lakes.

3. Land Pollution

Land pollution refers to the deterioration of the earth’s land surfaces, at and below ground level. The cause is the accumulation of solid and liquid waste materials that contaminate groundwater and soil. These waste materials are often referred to as municipal solid waste (MSW), which includes both hazardous and non-hazardous waste.

When waste is deposited on a land surface, the permeability of the soil formations beneath the waste can increase or decrease the risk of soil contamination. The higher the permeability of the soil, the more likely soil pollution is.

For this reason, the Texas Disposal Systems landfill, located just outside of Austin, Texas, was built in an ideal location. By utilizing the country’s natural shale and clay, the risk of land pollution has been significantly reduced.

It was not until the mid-20th century that solid waste was collected with respect for the environment. Previously, litter was typically left on the ground in “open dumps,” leading to rats, mosquitoes and other diseases, as well as foul smells and windblown debris.

However, while there are now much safer waste disposal practices, there are many other factors that contribute to and exacerbate the situation.

4. Radioactive Pollution

Radioactive Pollution is defined as the increase in the natural radiation levels caused by human activities. It is estimated that about 20% of radiation we are exposed to is due to human activities.

The human activities that can release radiation involve activities with radioactive materials such as mining, handling and processing of radioactive materials, handling and storage of radioactive waste, as well as the use of radioactive reactions to generate energy (nuclear power plants), along with the use of radiation in medicine (e.g. X-rays) and research.

But what about microwaves, cell phones, radio transmitters, wireless devices, computers, and other common commodities of today’s life?

5. Noise Pollution

The term “noise pollution” refers to unwanted or annoying sounds that happen around you. Machinery, amplified music, noisy vehicles, and other things can cause it.

If it’s loud or long-lasting, noise pollution can damage your hearing. It may also lead to other health problems, including headaches, sleep loss, and even high blood pressure. And it can stress you out, make you less productive, and decrease your quality of life.

Types of noise pollution can include explosions, jet engines, and even concerts (if you are close to the speakers). Noise pollution is dangerous because it can cause hearing loss.

6. Light Pollution

Most of us are familiar with air, water, and land pollution, but did you know that light can also be a pollutant?

Light pollution is excessive, misdirected, or obtrusive artificial (usually outdoor) light. Too much light pollution has consequences: it washes out starlight in the night sky, interferes with astronomical research, disrupts ecosystems, has adverse health effects and wastes energy.

The inappropriate or excessive use of artificial light – known as light pollution – can have serious environmental consequences for humans, wildlife, and our climate. Some consequences of light pollution are:

  • Some birds sing at unnatural hours in the presence of artificial light.
  • Scientists have determined that long artificial days can affect migration schedules, as they allow for longer feeding times.
  • Streetlights can confuse newly hatched sea turtles that rely on starlight reflecting off the waves to guide them from the beach to the ocean. They often head in the wrong direction.
  • Light pollution, called sky glow, also makes it difficult for astronomers, both professional and amateur, to properly see the stars.
  • Plant’s flowering and developmental patterns can be entirely disrupted by artificial light.

7. Thermal Pollution

Thermal pollution may also be referred to as thermal enrichment. When the temperature of a natural body of water suddenly increases or decreases, thermal pollution occurs. Industrial machinery and power plants are big contributors to thermal pollution.

An example of thermal pollution is when industrial sites and power plants often take water from a natural source. When the water is returned, the temperature has been altered. In our modern society, thermal pollution is a genuine problem. One of the significant effects of thermal pollution is a change in oxygen levels, destroying ecosystems and communities.

This is called thermal pollution. Thermal pollution can be caused by natural forces too like soil erosion giving water more sunlight.

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