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ENVIRONMENTAL MENACE IN SOCIETY AND HOW IT CAN BE CURBED

 


Environmental pollution is one of the most serious global challenges. Wild-type organisms have a slower degradation rate of hazardous materials. Currently, advanced molecular biology tools along with conventional approaches allow us to rapidly degrade or accumulate hazardous materials from environments. This can help modify microorganisms to gain the ability to sense and degrade hazardous chemicals from contaminated sites, in turn, allowing us to grow vegetation and improve crop productivity.

Environmental pollution represents an obstacle to the economical exploitation of coal deposits. In industrialized countries, the rules for protection of the environment are stricter than in developing countries. Thus, to get a license to open mines involves lengthy procedures which in turn cause delay. Indian authorities have also started to put stringent conditions in place regarding environmental pollution. Consequently, ecological problems can be totally prevented, but such measures are costly.

Some environmental consequences of mining and processing coal deposits are deforestation, land damage, water pollution and hydrological damage, air pollution, noise pollution, ground vibration and rock dispersal, and visual impact. Such environmental impacts are increasing day by day because the scale of individual mining operations is increasing as mining of lower grade deposits increases. The current trend toward surface mining, and mine mechanization, is also aggravating such problems.

The use of environmental standards as criteria for decision making in a developing country like India has to be properly assessed. If the norms of developed countries are applied in India, costs will be very high. Thus, the standards selected should be compatible with the country’s economic situation.

Environmental pollution is the unfavorable alteration of our surroundings, wholly or largely as a byproduct of man’s actions, through direct or indirect effects of the changes in the energy pattern, radiation levels, and chemical and physical constitution and abundance of organisms. Environmental pollution is a global problem and is common to both developed as well as developing countries, which attracts the attention of human beings for its severe long-term consequences. The decline in environmental quality as a consequence of pollution is evidenced by loss of vegetation, biological diversity, excessive amounts of harmful chemicals in the ambient atmosphere and in food grains, and growing risks of environmental accidents and threats to life support systems. Pollution is viewed from different angles by different people but is commonly agreed to be the outcome of urban-industrial and technological revolution and rapacious and speedy exploitation of natural resources, increased rate of exchange of matter and energy, and ever-increasing industrial wastes, urban effluents, and consumer goods.  Environmental pollution is the introduction by man, into the environment, of substances or energy liable to cause interference with legitimate uses of environment. Pollution in a very simple manner, is, “Disequilibrium condition from equilibrium condition in any system.” This definition may be applied to all types of pollution ranging from physical to economic, political, social, and religious. Over the past couple of decades, various sources of pollution were identified that altered the composition of water, air, and soil of the environment. The substances that cause pollution are known as pollutants. A pollutant can be any chemical (toxic metal, radionuclides, organophosphorus compounds, gases) or geochemical substance (dust, sediment), biological organism or product, or physical substance (heat, radiation, sound wave) that is released intentionally or inadvertently by man into the environment with actual or potential adverse, harmful, unpleasant, or inconvenient effects. Such undesirable effects may be direct (affecting man) or indirect, being mediated via resource organisms or climate change. Depending on the nature of pollutants and also subsequent pollution of environmental components, the pollution may be categorized as follows:

1.Air Pollution

2.Water Pollution

3.Soil/Land Pollution

4.Noise Pollution

5.Radioactive Pollution

6.Thermal Pollution

Among these types of pollution, air pollution is the main type threatening the environment, humans, plants, animals, and all living organisms.

Environmental pollution is currently the biggest challenge facing the word today.

 

In the United States 40% of rivers and 46% of lakes are too polluted for fishing, swimming, and aquatic life. Not surprising though when 1.2 trillion gallons of untreated storm water, industrial waste, and untreated sewage are being discharge annually into American waters.

 

One-third of the topsoil in the world is already degraded, and with the current rate of soil degradation caused be improper agricultural and industrial practices, and deforestation, most of the world’s topsoil could be gone within the next 60 years.

 

The Great Smog in 1952 killed 8000 people in London. This event was caused by a period of cold weather combined with windless conditions that formed a dense layer of airborne pollutants, mostly from coal plants, over the city.

 

There are many sources of pollution and each one has its own effect on the environment and living organisms. This article will discuss the causes and effects of the different kinds of pollution.

The causes of pollution are not just limited to fossil fuels and carbons emissions. There are many other types of pollution including chemical pollution into bodies of water and soil through improper disposal practices and agricultural activities, and noise and light pollution created by cities and urbanization as a result of population growth.

 

1. Air Pollution

There are two types of air pollutants, primary and secondary. Primary pollutants are emitted directly from their source, while secondary pollutants are formed when primary pollutants react in the atmosphere.

The burning of fossil fuels for transportation and electricity produces both primary and secondary pollutants and is one of the biggest sources of air pollution.

The fumes from car exhausts contain dangerous gases and particulates including hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides, and carbon monoxide. These gases rise into the atmosphere and react with other atmospheric gases creating even more toxic gases.

According to The Earth Institute, the heavy use of fertilizer for agriculture is a major contributor of fine-particulate air pollution, with most of Europe, Russia, China, and the United States being affected. The level of pollution caused by agricultural activities is thought to outweigh all other sources of fine-particulate air pollution in these countries.

Ammonia is the primary air pollutant that comes from agricultural activities. Ammonia enters the air as a gas from concentrated livestock waste and fields that are over fertilized.

This gaseous ammonia then combines with other pollutants such as nitrogen oxides and sulfates created by vehicles and industrial processes, to create aerosols. Aerosols are tiny particles that can penetrate deep into the lungs and cause heart and pulmonary disease.

Other agricultural air pollutants include pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides. All of which also contribute to water pollution.

 

2. Water Pollution

Nutrient pollution is caused by wastewater, sewage, and fertilizers. The high levels of nutrients in these sources end up in bodies of water and promote algae and weed growth, which can make the water undrinkable and depleted oxygen causing aquatic organisms to die.

Pesticides and herbicides applied to crops and residential areas concentrate in the soil and are carried to the groundwater by rainwater and runoff. For these reasons anytime someone drills a well for water it must be checked for pollutants.

Industrial waste is one of the main causes of water pollution, by creating primary and secondary pollutants including sulphur, lead and mercury, nitrates and phosphates, and oil spills.

In developing countries around 70% of their solid waste is dumped directly into the ocean or sea. This causes serious problems including the harming and killing of sea creatures, which ultimately affects humans.

 

3. Land & Soil Pollution

Land pollution is the destruction of land as a result of human’s activities and the misuse of land resources. This occurs when humans apply chemicals such as pesticides and herbicides to the soil, dispose of waste improperly, and irresponsibly exploit minerals through mining.

Soil is also polluted through leaking underground septic tanks, sewage systems, the leaching of harmful substances from landfill, and direct discharge of waste water by industrial plants into rivers and oceans.

Rain and flooding can bring pollutants from other already polluted lands to soil at other locations.

Over-farming and over-grazing by agricultural activities causes the soil to lose its nutrient value and structure causing soil degradation, another type of soil pollution.

Landfills can leach harmful substances into the soil and water ways and create very bad smells, and breeding grounds for rodents that transmit diseases.

 

4. Noise & Light Pollution

Noise is considered an environmental pollutant caused by household sources, social events, commercial and industrial activities, and transportation.

Light pollution is caused by the prolonged and excessive use of artificial lights at night that can cause health problems in humans and disrupt natural cycles, including wildlife activities. Sources of light pollution include electronic billboards, night sports grounds, street and car lights, city parks, public places, airports, and residential areas.

The effects of pollution can be seen every day, all around you. Pollution is destroying ecosystems and drinking water, and wreaking havoc on human and environmental health.

1. Effects of Air Pollution

High levels of air pollution can cause an increased risk of heart attack, wheezing, coughing, and breathing problems, and irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat. Air pollution can also cause worsening of existing heart problems, asthma, and other lung complications.

Like humans, animals can suffer from a number of health problems due to air pollution, including birth defects, reproductive failure, and diseases.

Air pollution causes a number of environmental effects in addition to the effects on humans and animals.

Acid rain contains high levels of nitric and sulfuric acids that are created by oxides and sulfur oxides released into the air by the burning of fossil fuels. Acid rain damages trees and acidifies soils and water bodies, making the water too acidic for fish and other aquatic life.

Nitrogen oxides released into the air by the burning of fossil fuels also contribute to the nitrogen responsible for toxic algae blooms.

The release of man-made compounds including hydrochlorofluorocarbons, chlorofluorocarbons, and halons formerly used as coolants, foaming agents, pesticides, solvents, aerosol propellants, and fire-extinguishers are depleting the ozone. The ozone layer in the stratosphere forms a protective layer that reflects harmful ultraviolet rays back into space that would otherwise destroy animal and plant life.

2. Effects of Water Pollution

Water pollution is a serious threat to humans, animals, and aquatic life.

The effects of water pollution depend on which chemicals are being dumped where. Bodies of water that are near urbanized areas tend to be heavily polluted by dumbing of garbage and chemicals, both legally and illegally, by industrial plants, health centers, and individuals.

By far the biggest consequence of water pollution is the death of aquatic creatures, which can disrupt the entire food chain. Pollutants such as cadmium, mercury, and lead are eaten by tiny aquatic organisms that are then eaten by fish and shell fish, becoming more concentrated with each step up the food chain and causing serious problems in humans and wildlife.

Nutrient pollution can cause toxic algal blooms in drinking water sources that create toxins that kill fish and other aquatic animals. Direct exposure to this toxic alga causes serious health problems in humans including neurological effects, respiratory problems, stomach and liver illness, and rashes.

A consequential problem is created when disinfectants used to treat drinking water reach water polluted with toxic algae, they react creating dioxins. Dioxins are extremely harmful chemical compounds that have been linked with reproductive and development problems, and even cancer.

Nitrates, caused by fertilizers, also contaminate drinking water and according to the Environmental Protection Agency, babies who consume water that is high in nitrates can become seriously ill with blue-baby syndrome, which causes shortness of breath and blue-tinted skin, and can lead to death if not treated early.

3. Effects of Land & Soil Pollution

Land and soil pollution has substantial consequences for humans, animals, microorganisms and aquatic life. Contaminated land and soil can cause various problems on the skin, respiratory problems, and even different kinds of cancers.

These toxic substances come into contact with the human body directly through eating fruits and vegetables that have been grown in polluted soils, being consumed through drinking water that has been contaminated, direct contact with the skin, and breathing in air polluted with particles and dust.

Deforestation is the biggest concern when it comes to land degradation and soil erosion. Clear cutting of vegetation and tree cover creates harsh conditions that destroy ecosystems and habitats.

Deforestation also creates an imbalance in atmospheric conditions, reducing the amount of carbon that is naturally taken out of the atmosphere. This is a serious problem considering that most pollution created by people is carbon based.

4. Effects of Noise & Light Pollution

 

Noise pollution can cause stress, anxiety, headaches, irritability, hearing loss, and sleep loss resulting in decreased productivity.

Oil drills, submarines, and other vessels on and in the ocean can cause excessive noise that has resulted in the injury or death of marine animals, especially whales.

Too much light causes eye strain and stress, harming our eyes and decreasing our quality of life. Light pollution also causes a decrease in the hormone melatonin that helps us to fall asleep, resulting in restlessness and fatigue.

Many mammals, insects, birds, and reptiles are photoperiodic meaning their movement, mating, growth and development, and eating cycles are regulated by natural light patterns. Light pollution can interfere with these natural behaviors and cycles, causing a decrease in wildlife populations.

Pollution prevention approaches can be applied to all potential and actual pollution-generating activities, including those found in the energy, agriculture, federal, consumer and industrial sectors. Prevention practices are essential for preserving wetlands, groundwater sources and other critical ecosystems - areas in which we especially want to stop pollution before it begins.

In the energy sector, pollution prevention can reduce environmental damages from extraction, processing, transport and combustion of fuels. Pollution prevention approaches include:

* Increasing efficiency in energy use;

* Use of environmentally benign fuel sources.

In the agricultural sector, pollution prevention approaches include:

 

* Reducing the use of water and chemical inputs;

* Adoption of less environmentally harmful pesticides or cultivation of crop strains with natural resistance to pests; and

* Protection of sensitive areas.

In the industrial sector, examples of Pollution prevention practices includes:

* Using non-toxic or less toxic chemicals as cleaners, degreasers and other maintenance chemicals

* Implementing water and energy conservation practices

* Reusing materials such as drums and pallets rather than disposing of them as waste

In homes and schools examples of Pollution prevention practices include:

 

* Using reusable water bottles instead of throw-aways

* Automatically turning off lights when not in use

* Repairing leaky faucets and hoses

* Switching to "green" cleaners

The world in which we live in today can be a better place if you and I can come together to curb this environmental menace that has turned out to be a plague to our society. Together we can!

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