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Types And Causes Of Pollution Environmental Sciences Essay

Pollution is the beginning of a waste into the atmosphere making it impossible to make life on earth possible to sustain. Pollution is the introduction of a contaminant into the environment. It is created mostly by human actions, but can also be a result of natural disasters. Pollution has a detrimental effect on any living organism in an environment, making it virtually impossible to sustain life. Pollution harms the Earth's environment and its people in many ways. Presence of matter (gas, liquid, solid) or energy (heat, noise, radiation) whose nature, location, or quantity directly or indirectly alters characteristics or processes of any part of the environment, and causes (or has the potential to cause) damage to the condition, health, safety, or welfare of animals, humans, plants, or property.

The introduction of contaminants into a natural environment that causes instability, disorder, harm or discomfort to the ecosystem i.e. Physical systems or living organisms. Pollution can take the form of chemical substances or energy, such as noise, heat, or light. Pollutants, the elements of pollution, can be foreign substances or energies, or naturally occurring; when naturally occurring, they are considered contaminants when they exceed natural levels. Pollution is often classed as point source or nonpoint source pollution. There are two types of the cause of pollution, natural and man-made. Natural pollution occurs naturally and won't cause excessive harm to our lives due to its regeneration ability. While the man-made pollution is caused by human activities, and hard to get rid of. The backbones of man-made pollution are human population and technology. Naturally human needs contact to the environment, we get resources from nature. This is for the sake of living. By the increase of human population, the contact is getting more intensive, because needs are increasing. And by the findings and development of new technologies, human can apply them to get the resources. And it's common that new technologies would bring their respective side effects besides their advantages.


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Air pollution is the accumulation of hazardous substances into the atmosphere that danger human life and other living matter. Air pollution is the introduction of chemicals, particulate matter, or biological materials that cause harm or discomfort to humans or other living organisms, or damages the natural environment into the atmosphere.

The atmosphere is a complex dynamic natural gaseous system that is essential to support life on planet Earth. Stratospheric ozone depletion due to air pollution has long been recognized as a threat to human health as well as to the Earth's ecosystems. Air is the ocean we breathe. Air supplies us with oxygen which is essential for our bodies to live. Air is 99.9% nitrogen, oxygen, water vapor and inert gases. Human activities can release substances into the air, some of which can cause problems for humans, plants, and animals.There are several main types of pollution and well-known effects of pollution which are commonly discussed. These include smog, acid rain, the greenhouse effect, and "holes" in the ozone layer. Each of these problems has serious implications for our health and well-being as well as for the whole environment. This type of pollution is sometimes referred to as "black carbon" pollution. The exhaust from burning fuels in automobiles, homes, and industries is a major source of pollution in the air. Some authorities believe that even the burning of wood and charcoal in fireplaces and barbeques can release significant quanitites of soot into the air.

Another type of pollution is the release of noxious gases, such as sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, and chemical vapors. These can take part in further chemical reactions once they are in the atmosphere, forming smog and acid rain.

Major primary pollutants produced by human activity include:

Sulfur oxides (SOx) - Sulfur dioxide is a chemical compound with the formula SO2. SO2 is produced by volcanoes and in various industrial processes. Since coal and petroleum often contain sulfur compounds, their combustion generates sulfur dioxide.

Nitrogen oxides (NOx) - Nitrogen dioxide are emitted from high temperature combustion. Nitrogen dioxide is the chemical compound with the formula NO2. It is one of the several nitrogen oxides. This reddish-brown toxic gas has a characteristic sharp, biting odor. NO2 is one of the most prominent air pollutants.

Carbon monoxide - It is a colourless, odourless, non-irritating but very poisonous gas. It is a product by incomplete combustion of fuel such as natural gas, coal or wood. Vehicular exhaust is a major source of carbon monoxide.

Carbon dioxide (CO2) - It is a greenhouse gas which is emitted from combustion but is also a gas vital to living organisms. It is a natural gas in the atmosphere.

Volatile organic compounds - VOCs are an important outdoor air pollutant. In this field they are often divided into the separate categories of methane (CH4) and non-methane (NMVOCs). Methane is an extremely efficient greenhouse gas which contributes to enhanced global warming. Other hydrocarbon VOCs are also significant greenhouse gases via their role in creating ozone and in prolonging the life of methane in the atmosphere, although the effect varies depending on local air quality.

Toxic metals- such as lead, cadmium and copper.

Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) - It is harmful to the ozone layer emitted from products currently banned from use.

Ammonia (NH3) -Ammonia is emitted from agricultural processes. Ammonia is a compound with the formula NH3. It is normally encountered as a gas with a characteristic pungent odor. Ammonia contributes significantly to the nutritional needs of terrestrial organisms by serving as a precursor to foodstuffs and fertilizers. Ammonia, either directly or indirectly, is also a building block for the synthesis of many pharmaceuticals. Although in wide use, ammonia is both caustic and hazardous.

Odors - such as from garbage, sewage, and industrial processes

Radioactive pollutants which are produced by nuclear explosions, war explosives, and natural processes such as the radioactive decay of radon.

Secondary pollutants include:

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Smog is a kind of air pollution; the word "smog" is a portmanteau of smoke and fog. Classic smog results from large amounts of coal burning in an area caused by a mixture of smoke and sulfur dioxide. Modern smog does not usually come from coal but from vehicular and industrial emissions that are acted on in the atmosphere by sunlight to form secondary pollutants that also combine with the primary emissions to form photochemical smog.

Photochemical and chemical reactions involving it drive many of the chemical processes that occur in the atmosphere by day and by night. At abnormally high concentrations brought about by human activities (largely the combustion of fossil fuel), it is a pollutant, and a constituent of smog.

Peroxyacetyl nitrate (PAN) - similarly formed from NOx and VOCs.

Minor air pollutants include:

A large number of minor hazardous air pollutants. Some of these are regulated in USA under the Clean Air Act and in Europe under the Air Framework Directive.

A variety of persistent organic pollutants, which can attach to particulate matter.

Persistent organic pollutants (POPs) are organic compounds that are resistant to environmental degradation through chemical, biological, and photolytic processes. Because of this, they have been observed to persist in the environment, to be capable of long-range transport, bioaccumulate in human and animal tissue, biomagnify in food chains, and to have potential significant impacts on human health and the environment.


Anthropogenic sources (human activity) mostly related to burning different kinds of fuel

"Stationary Sources" include smoke stacks of power plants, manufacturing facilities (factories) and waste incinerators, as well as furnaces and other types of fuel-burning heating devices

"Mobile Sources" include motor vehicles, marine vessels, aircraft and the effect of sound etc.

Fumes from paint, hair spray, varnish, aerosol sprays and other solvents

Waste deposition in landfills, which generate methane. Methane is not toxic; however, it is highly flammable and may form explosive mixtures with air. Methane is also an asphyxiant and may displace oxygen in an enclosed space. Asphyxia or suffocation may result if the oxygen concentration is reduced to below 19.5% by displacement.

Military, such as nuclear weapons, toxic gases, germ warfare and rocketry

Natural sources

Dust from natural sources, usually large areas of land with little or no vegetation.

Methane, emitted by the digestion of food by animals, for example cattle.

Radon gas from radioactive decay within the Earth's crust. Radon is a colorless, odorless, naturally occurring, radioactive noble gas that is formed from the decay of radium. It is considered to be a health hazard. Radon gas from natural sources can accumulate in buildings, especially in confined areas such as the basement and it is the second most frequent cause of lung cancer, after cigarette smoking.

Smoke and carbon monoxide from wildfires.

Volcanic activity, which produce sulfur, chlorine, and ash particulates.


The following items are commonly used as pollution control devices by industry or transportation devices. They can either destroy contaminants or remove them from an exhaust stream before it is emitted into the atmosphere.

Particulate control

Mechanical collectors

Electrostatic precipitators  An electrostatic precipitator (ESP), or electrostatic air cleaner is a particulate collection device that removes particles from a flowing gas (such as air) using the force of an induced electrostatic charge. Electrostatic precipitators are highly efficient filtration devices that minimally impede the flow of gases through the device, and can easily remove fine particulate matter such as dust and smoke from the air stream.

Baghouses These are designed to handle heavy dust loads, a dust collector consists of a blower, dust filter, a filter-cleaning system, and a dust receptacle or dust removal system

Particulate scrubbers Wet scrubber is a form of pollution control technology. The term describes a variety of devices that use pollutants from a furnace flue gas or from other gas streams. In a wet scrubber, the polluted gas stream is brought into contact with the scrubbing liquid, by spraying it with theliquid, by forcing it through a pool of liquid, or by some other contact method, so as to remove the pollutants.

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Baffle spray scrubber

Cyclonic spray scrubber

Mechanically aided scrubber

Spray tower

Wet scrubber

NOx control

Low NOx burners

Selective catalytic reduction 

Selective non-catalytic reduction

NOx scrubbers

Catalytic converter

Acid Gas/SOHYPERLINK "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sulfur_dioxide"2 control

Wet scrubbers

Dry scrubbers

Don't smoke

Keep your car maintenance up-to-date

Don't buy products that come in aerosol spray cans

Avoid using lighter fluid when barbecuing outside

When you drive accelerate slowly and use cruise control

Always replace your car's air filter

Use a push or electric lawnmower rather than a gas-powered one

Don't use harsh chemical cleaners that can emit fumes

Inspect your gas appliances and heaters regularly

Facts about Air Pollution

Almost 232 million different types of vehicles are driven by U.S. citizens every day, adding greenhouse gases into the air.

U.S. vehicle emissions contribute 45% to global warming

The average adult consumes 3,000 gallons of polluted air every day

Vehicle exhaust contributes to 60% of carbon monoxide emissions in the U.S. and up to 95% in large cities

Every year 335,000 Americans die of lung cancer, which is a direct result of air pollution


Some of the main contributors to water pollution are:



Waste treatment facilities


Pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers

Human sewage

Oil spills

Failing septic systems

Soap from washing your car

Oil and antifreeze leaking from cars

Household chemicals

Animal waste


Water pollution is the introduction of chemical, biological and physical matter into large bodies of water that degrade the quality of life that lives in it and consumes it. Oil spills, household chemicals, pesticides and fertilizers are the major sources of water pollution. The best way to prevent water pollution is to not throw trash and other harmful chemicals into our water supplies because it causes harm to the rivers and lakes. Water pollution affects plants and organisms living in these bodies of water; and, in almost all cases the effect is damaging not only to individual species and populations, but also to the natural biological communities.

Water pollution occurs when pollutants are discharged directly or indirectly into water bodies without adequate treatment to remove harmful compounds. Water pollution is a major problem in the global context. It has been suggested that it is the leading worldwide cause of deaths and diseases, and that it accounts for the deaths of more than 14,000 people daily. An estimated 700 million Indians have no access to a proper toilet, and 1,000 Indian children die of diarrheal sickness every day. Some 90% of China's cities suffer from some degree of water pollution, and nearly 500 million people lack access to safe drinking water. In addition to the acute problems of water pollution in developing countries, industrialized countries continue to struggle with pollution problems as well. In the most recent national report on water quality in the United States, 45 percent of assessed stream miles, 47 percent of assessed lake acres, and 32 percent of assessed bay and estuarine square miles were classified as polluted.

Facts about Water Pollution

Over two-thirds of U.S. estuaries and bays are severely degraded because of nitrogen and phosphorous pollution

Every year almost 25% of U.S. beaches are closed at least once because of water pollution

Over 73 different kinds of pesticides have been found in the groundwater that we eventually use to drink

1.2 trillion gallons of sewage, stormwater and industrial waste are discharged into U.S. waters every year

40% of U.S. rivers are too polluted for aquatic life to survive

Americans use over 2.2 billion pounds of pesticides every year, which eventually washes into our rivers and lakes

How to Prevent Water Pollution

The best way to prevent water pollution is to not throw trash and other harmful chemicals into our water supplies. Here are a few more ways you can prevent water pollution:

Wash your car far away from any storm water drains

Don't throw trash, chemicals or solvents into sewer drains

Inspect your septic system every 3-5 years

Avoid using pesticides and fertilizers that can run off into water systems

Sweep your driveway instead of hosing it down

Always pump your waste-holding tanks on your boat

Use non-toxic cleaning materials

Clean up oil and other liquid spills with kitty litter and sweet them up

Don't wash paint brushes in the sink


Noise pollution (or environmental noise) is displeasing human, animal or machine-created sound that disrupts the activity or balance of human or animal life. The word noise comes from the Latin word nauseas, meaning seasickness.

The source of most outdoor noise worldwide is mainly construction  and transportation systems, including motor vehicle noise, aircraft noise and rail noise. Poor urban planning may give rise to noise pollution, since side-by-side industrial and residential buildings can result in noise pollution in the residential area. Indoor and outdoor noise pollution sources include car alarms, emergency service sirens, mechanical equipment, fireworks, compressed air horns, grounds keeping equipment, barking dogs, appliances, lighting hum, audio entertainment systems, electric  megaphones, and loud people. The fact that you can't see, taste or smell it may help explain why it has not received as much attention as other types of pollution, such as air pollution, or water pollution.  The air around us is constantly filled with sounds, yet most of us would probably not say we are surrounded by noise.  Though for some, the persistent and escalating sources of sound can often be considered an annoyance.  This "annoyance" can have big danger.


Here are a variety of strategies for mitigating roadway noise including: use of noise barriers, limitation of vehicle speeds, alteration of roadway surface texture, limitation of heavy vehicles, use of traffic controls that smooth vehicle flow to reduce braking and acceleration, and tire design. An important factor in applying these strategies is a computer model for roadway noise, that is capable of addressing local topography, meteorology, traffic operations and hypothetical mitigation. Costs of building-in mitigation can be modest, provided these solutions are sought in the planning stage of a roadway project.

Aircraft noise can be reduced to some extent by design of quieter jet engines, which was pursued vigorously in the 1970s and 1980s. This strategy has brought limited but noticeable reduction of urban sound levels. Reconsideration of operations, such as altering flight paths and time of day runway use, has demonstrated benefits for residential populations near airports. FAA sponsored residential retrofit (insulation) programs initiated in the 1970s has also enjoyed success in reducing interior residential noise in thousands of residences across the United States.

Exposure of workers to Industrial noise has been addressed since the 1930s. Changes include redesign of industrial equipment, shock mounting assemblies and physical barriers in the workplace.

Noise Free America, a national anti-noise pollution organization, regularly lobbies for the enforcement of noise ordinances at all levels of government.


The International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) defines light pollution as:

Any adverse effect of artificial light including sky glow, glare, light trespass, light clutter, decreased visibility at night, and energy waste.

Such an approach confuses the cause and its result, however. Pollution is the adding-of/added light itself, in analogy to added sound, CO2 etc. Adverse consequences are multiple, some of them may be not known yet. Real definitions are to be, therefore, like:

Alteration of natural light levels in the outdoor environment owing to artificial light sources.

Light pollution is the alteration of light levels in the outdoor environment (from those present naturally) due to man-made sources of light. Indoor light pollution is such alteration of light levels in the indoor environment due to sources of light, which compromises human health. Light pollution is the introduction by humans, directly or indirectly, of artificial light into the environment.

In spite of the scientific approach, The U.S. National Park Service, whose Night Sky Team determined that almost every park that it surveyed has noticeable light pollution, defines the term still as: Principally, the illumination of the night sky caused by artificial light sources, decreasing the visibility of stars and other natural sky phenomena. Also includes other incidental or obtrusive aspects of outdoor lighting such as glare, trespass into areas not needing lighting, use in areas where or at times when lighting is not needed, and disturbance of the natural nighttime landscape.

Light pollution obscures the stars in the night sky for city dwellers, interferes with astronomical observatories, and, like any other form of pollution, disrupts ecosystems and has adverse health effects.

Light pollution can be divided into two main types:

(1) annoying light that intrudes on an otherwise natural or low-light setting

(2) excessive light (generally indoors) that leads to discomfort and adverse health effects.

Since the early 1980s, a global dark-sky movement has emerged, with concerned people campaigning to reduce the amount of light pollution.

Light pollution is a side effect of industrial civilization. Its sources include building exterior and interior lighting, advertising, commercial properties, offices, factories, streetlights, and illuminated sporting venues.


Reducing light pollution implies many things, such as reducing sky glow, reducing glare, reducing light trespass, and reducing clutter. The method for best reducing light pollution, therefore, depends on exactly what the problem is in any given instance. Possible solutions include:

Utilizing light sources of minimum intensity necessary to accomplish the light's purpose.

Turning lights off using a timer or occupancy sensor or manually when not needed.

Improving lighting fixtures, so that they direct their light more accurately towards where it is needed, and with less side effects.

Adjusting the type of lights used, so that the light waves emitted are those that are less likely to cause severe light pollution problems.

Evaluating existing lighting plans, and re-designing some or all of the plans depending on whether existing light is actually needed.


Land pollution is pollution of the Earth's natural land surface by industrial, commercial, domestic and agricultural activities. Land pollution is the degradation of Earth's land surfaces often caused by human activities and their misuse of land resources. It occurs when waste is not disposed properly. Health hazard disposal of urban and industrial wastes, exploitation of minerals, and improper use of soil by inadequate agricultural practices are a few factors. Urbanization and industrialization are major causes of land pollution. The Industrial Revolution set a series of events into motion which destroyed natural habitats and polluted the environment, causing diseases in both humans and other species of animals.


Some of the main contributors to land pollution are:

Chemical and nuclear plants

Industrial factories

Oil refineries

Human sewage

Oil and antifreeze leaking from cars



Overcrowded landfills


Construction debris


Every year one American produces over 3285 pounds of hazardous waste

Land pollution causes us to lose 24 billion tons of top soil every year

Americans generate 30 billion foam cups, 220 million tires and 1.8 billion disposable diapers every year

We throw away enough trash every day to fill 63,000 garbage trucks

Every day Americans throw away 1 million bushels of litter out their car window

Over 80% of items in landfills can be recycled, but they're not

How to Prevent Land Pollution

The best way to prevent land pollution is to recycle. Here are a few other ways you can reduce land pollution:

Reuse any items that you can

Buy biodegradable products

Store all liquid chemicals and waste in spill-proof containers

Eat organic foods that are grown without pesticides

Don't use pesticides

Use a drip tray to collect engine oil

Buy products that have little packaging

Don't dump motor oil on the ground


Marine pollution occurs when harmful effects, or potentially harmful effects, can result from the entry into the ocean of chemicals, particles, industrial, agricultural and residential waste, noise, or the spread of invasive organisms. Most sources of marine pollution are land based. The pollution often comes from nonpoint sources such as agricultural  runoff and windblown debris. Many potentially toxic chemicals adhere to tiny particles which are then taken up by  plankton  and benthos  animals, most of which are either deposit or filter feeders. In this way, the toxins are concentrated upward within ocean food chains. Many particles combine chemically in a manner highly depletive of oxygen, causing estuaries to become anoxic. When pesticides are incorporated into the marine ecosystem, they quickly become absorbed into marine food webs. Once in the food webs, these pesticides can cause mutations, as well as diseases, which can be harmful to humans as well as the entire food web.

Toxic metals can also be introduced into marine food webs. These can cause a change to tissue matter, biochemistry, behaviour, reproduction, and suppress growth in marine life. Also, many animal feeds have a high fish meal or fish hydrolysate content. In this way, marine toxins can be transferred to land animals, and appear later in meat and dairy products.


Thermal pollution is the degradation of water quality by any process that changes ambient water temperature. A common cause of thermal pollution is the use of water as a coolant by power plants and industrial manufacturers.

When water used as a coolant is returned to the natural environment at a higher temperature, the change in temperature

(a) Decreases oxygen supply

(b) Affects ecosystem composition.


Ship pollution is the pollution of air and water by shipping. It is a problem that has been accelerating as trade has become increasingly globalized, posing an increasing threat to the world's oceans and waterways as globalization continues.


Radiation pollution is any form of ionizing or no ionizing radiation that results from human activities. The most well-known radiation results from the detonation of nuclear devices and the controlled release of energy by nuclear-power generating plants (see nuclear energy). Other sources of radiation include spent-fuel reprocessing plants, by-products of mining operations, and experimental research laboratories. Increased exposure to medical X rays and to radiation emissions from microwave ovens and other household appliances, although of considerably less magnitude, all constitute sources of environmental radiation.

Public concern over the release of radiation into the environment greatly increased following the disclosure of possible harmful effects to the public from nuclear weapons testing, the accident (1979) at the Three Mile Island nuclear-power generating plant near Harrisburg, Pa., and the catastrophic 1986 explosion at Chernobyl, a Soviet nuclear power plant. In the late 1980s, revelations of major pollution problems at U.S. nuclear weapons reactors raised apprehensions even higher.


Pollution causes effect and control By Roy M .Harrison

Air Pollution By Jeremy Coils

Global effect of environmental pollution By Siegfied Fred Singer

Water Wars By Vandana Shiva

Pollution By Christiane Dorion



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