By land, air, and water, pollutants produced by humans harm the different natural environments. Knowing the causes of environmental pollution is the first step to avoid deterioration of the planet and thus take the appropriate actions to build a more sustainable future.
The planet continually reminds us, and more and more recurrently, that if we alter its balance, the consequences are devastating through droughts, mega-fires, floods, loss of biodiversity, and increasingly ferocious natural disasters. Climate change is already a reality and thousands of people, animals, and plants suffer its effects.
Pollution is nothing more than an incentive that makes the climate crisis progress uncontrollably. We refer to the polluting environment as the entry of harmful chemicals into a given environment. This phenomenon affects the balance of said environment and makes it an unsafe environment.
The environment and its ecosystems suffer directly from the damaging effects. And it is that pollution is a negative alteration of the natural state of the living beings that inhabit the planet. The causes of this type of pollution depend on several agents that vary according to the ecosystem they affect.
Throughout history, human activity has been the main source of pollution on the planet. This has caused the contamination of our environments and the alteration of the ecological balance of the planet. Pollution poses a risk to the health of all living beings on the planet.
The World Health Organization already affirms that most of the citizens reside in areas where pollution is present, exceeding the limits established as healthy. And there are many substances that have a negative impact not only on human health but also on thousands of species of animals and plants that see their habitats altered by the effects of pollution.
There are different types of pollutants that can be chemical substances, such as pesticides, cyanide, herbicides …, urban waste, oil, or ionizing radiation. However, one thing they have in common is that they cause disease and damage the environment in an alarming way. The rapid advance of climate change is nothing more than an accelerator that fuels this global problem.
However, to know the causes of pollution we must first learn to differentiate the different types of pollution based on their origin. These might be:
Caused by phenomena such as forest fires, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis, or earthquakes.
Caused by human activity (polluting effects: industrial activity, chemical products, etc.). As for the interruption of the natural cycles of the ecosystem, the misuse of natural resources, or the mismanagement of waste.
Pollution occurs as a consequence of two important factors: the increase in the human population and the uncontrollable advance of industrial development. Both cause an imbalance in the environment in the face of different physical, chemical, or biological pollutants:
They come from the chemical industry, where toxic products such as acids, organic solvents, plastics, petroleum derivatives, synthetic fertilizers, and pesticides are generated.
They come from actions caused by human activity such as noise, radioactivity, heat, and electromagnetic energy.
Caused by the decomposition and fermentation of organic waste such as excrement, sawdust from the forestry industry, paper, waste from factories or drains.
As we have explained, each of these pollutants has a negative effect on the natural environment, but their causes and effects vary depending on whether they affect water, air, or soil.
Water pollution occurs when its composition is altered by the presence of some substance or pollutant. This is when we talk about contaminated water. which is one that not only does not meet the necessary conditions to be used for consumption but is also harmful to ecosystems.
It is increasingly common for places with clean and crystalline water such as the waters of the Ganges River to become a symbol of water pollution on the planet. And it is that water pollution already affects one in three inhabitants, according to estimates by the United Nations (UN).
Among the causes of pollution, the alteration of water by pollutants is one of the most serious given the importance of this resource for life on the planet.
The WHO warns that the consumption of contaminated water claims, each year, more than 50,000 global deaths and transmits diseases such as cholera, dysentery, or typhoid fever. Water is vital for life. However, their scarcity is a global problem that we must solve as soon as possible.
Plastics, phosphates, and poor waste treatment in some regions of the world are the main pollutants that make water a dangerous resource for living beings.
The climate emergency is aggravating this problem considerably. And it is that the increase in CO2 emissions into the atmosphere causes an increase in global temperature that affects the temperature of the oceans. This causes the water to heat up and oxygen levels to decrease, making seas and rivers uninhabitable for marine species.
The dumping of waste into the sea is another of the polluting sources that cause water pollution. The UN ensures that more than 80% of wastewater reaches the seas and oceans without treatment. For this reason, from Aquae Foundation we share a series of tips to avoid pollution of the sea.
The pollution of the air is a mixture of solid particles and gases in the air we breathe. The main causes of this type of pollution related to burning fossil fuels like coal, oil, and gas whose main home is in the industrial sector, extraction of oil wells, and road transport.
The increase in the emission of greenhouse gases is one of the main causes of polluting the environment. And it is that the air of the atmosphere contains natural gases that fulfill vital functions so that life on our planet is possible. An example of this is that these gases are capable of retaining the sun’s rays that pass through the different layers of the Earth, thus helping to regulate the temperature and protecting humans from ultraviolet radiation.
However, when these gases increase considerably, the natural balance is broken. This causes devastating effects such as global warming, the melting of the poles, the decrease in water resources, the risk of survival of thousands of species, and alterations in the climate that affect the lives of all living beings.
Climate change is accelerating all these phenomena. Renewable energies, recycling, and greater environmental awareness by citizens are key to ending pollution and its effects.
The increased use of chemical compounds in different products and poor waste management are some of the most obvious causes of soil contamination. All of them have the human being as the main cause causing an alteration of the earth’s surface. Some examples of this type of pollution can be seen in:
Contain liquids and gases derived from petroleum that come into contact with the earth through leaks from pipes.
It is the main cause of soil contamination due to a large number of chemicals it contains and that the earth absorbs until it reaches groundwater.
Domestic and commercial garbage that is not properly treated to avoid its negative environmental impact. Those wastes that do not decompose remain for hundreds of years on land and in water.
Pesticides, chemical liquids, and fuel and metal residues come from textile, paper, food, and oil production.
The work of a mine generates a huge environmental impact on the ecosystem. Examples of this are certain changes in the morphology of the terrain or air and soil pollution.
Heavy metals, hydrocarbons, pesticides, and acidic substances are the main pollutants on earth. The problem with the presence of these substances is that they are absorbed by the soil, affecting the quality of the crops. Pollutant particles are absorbed by vegetation, which when consumed by animals and humans become part of the trophic chain.
There are many consequences that pollution has on our planet and all of them generate great concern for its effects on the health of both our natural environment and that of its citizens.
The main consequence of pollution is global warming. This phenomenon involves a considerable increase in the planet’s temperature progressively both at the atmospheric level and in the seas and oceans.
Black carbon, tropospheric ozone, and methane are responsible for between 30% and 40% of global warming, according to the Climate and Clean Air Coalition. All this causes the summers to be much hotter and the average temperatures last less and less time.
Environment polluting poses a risk to human health as well as to the living beings that inhabit ecosystems.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), air pollution, derived from the presence of pollutants such as carbon monoxide, increases the chances of suffering from diseases or even causing death. Among them, we find acute respiratory diseases, such as pneumonia, and chronic diseases such as lung cancer and cardiovascular diseases.
Indiscriminate logging, excessive exploitation of natural resources, and the emission of polluting gases into the atmosphere threaten the lives of thousands of species of animals and plants. This is mainly due to the fact that their habitat is reduced and causes some of them to even go extinct.
In short, environmental pollution does nothing more than alter our natural balance. On our side is to reduce its effects. And it is that between all we must join efforts to walk towards the construction of a much more responsible society that manages to commit the different generations with the care and respect of nature.
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