Environmental issues are the negative consequences of the human impact on the environment. Environmental degradation as a result of human activity is an ongoing problem that has global impacts. Many fields of study have been dedicated to finding solutions to these environmental issues, a common example for which being environmental chemistry. An introduction to three important environmental issues is provided in this article.
Air pollution is the contamination of the atmosphere with excessive quantities of harmful substances. Examples of gases that contribute to air pollution are:
- Carbon monoxide, a colourless gas with the chemical formula CO.
- Sulfur dioxide, a toxic gas with the chemical formula SO2.
- Oxides of nitrogen, such as nitric oxide (NO) or nitrogen dioxide (NO2).
- Chlorofluorocarbons (often referred to as CFCs) and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (often referred to as HCFCs).
- Methane, a gaseous hydrocarbon with the chemical formula CH4.
Air pollution can contribute to several human health problems and respiratory infections. Long term exposure to polluted air has also been linked with increased risk of lung cancer, stroke, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (often abbreviated to COPD). It can also be noted that air pollution is the primary cause of over 7 million worldwide deaths each year.
Water pollution is a term that refers to the contamination of water bodies with toxic substances. Common examples of water bodies that are subject to water pollution include:
One of the leading causes of water pollution is the release of untreated wastewater into water bodies. Such practices often result in severe damage to aquatic ecosystems and eutrophication. Furthermore, the dumping of wastewater into rivers can pose serious threats to the communities that reside downstream. The usage of such polluted waters for bathing and irrigation can cause serious health problems. In fact, water pollution is classified as one of the leading causes of death due to water-borne diseases.
Other causes of water pollution include the dumping of industrial discharge (which may be organic or inorganic chemicals) into water bodies and the elevation of the water temperature due to discharge from thermal power plants (where water is used as a coolant).
Soil pollution is a form of land degradation in which the soil becomes contaminated with large quantities of xenobiotics. The leading causes of soil pollution are industrial activity, improper disposal or management of waste, and the excessive use of chemical pesticides and chemical fertilizers. Soil pollution can lead to several health problems in human beings. For example, exposure to polluted soil containing large amounts of lead can lead to cancer, congenital disorders, and several other chronic health conditions. The effects of soil pollution on human health is dependent upon several factors. Some of these factors are listed below.
- The type of pollutant
- The pathway through which the pollutant attacks the body (such as inhalation or ingestion)
- The vulnerability of the exposed populace (which is, in turn, dependent on several factors such as age, immunity, etc.)
Thus, a brief introduction to air pollution, water pollution, and soil pollution were provided in this article.