Water And Air Pollution Are Serious Issues That Affect The World Today

915 words | 4 page(s)

As a result of human activities, substances are released into the air, water, and soil that are harmful to the environment and to human life. This paper discusses air and water pollution looking at causes, effects, as well as steps that can be taken to minimize or stop the problem.

Air Pollution: Causes And Effects
There are also several classes of air pollutants such as volatile organic compounds, suspended particles, oxides of carbon (carbon dioxide and carbo monoxide), radioactive/hazardous substances, photochemical oxidants and other pollutant gases. Primary pollutants are those pollutants which when released into the air can cause harm directly, while secondary pollutants are those pollutants that react with other substances in the air to form hazardous substances (University of California 71). Carbon monoxide (CO) is a primary pollutant that is produced through incomplete combustion of fuels such as petrol and gasoline by automobiles. When breathed in for humans, it reduces the amount of oxygen the blood can carry and can lead to death. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas that contributes to warming of the atmosphere or climate change (Jamison et al. 818). The gas can also dissolve in the rain to form acid rain which damages objects. Sulphur oxides are produced during burning of fuels and oils. They react with the atmosphere to produce fog and acid rain which corrodes marble and metal structures. Benzene is used in industrial processes. Exposure to this chemical can lead to birth defects, diseases in the nervous, and cancer (University of California 71).

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Some pollutants react with other gases in the air to form photochemical oxides as secondary pollutants. Photochemical oxides, like Ozone, are irritating to the nose, throat, and eyes. They can aggravate diseased like heart disease and asthma. Some photochemical oxides can kill plants as well as erode clothes and rubber. Nitric oxides can cause bronchitis, lung damage, and increase flu, asthma and colds, on exposure. They are also the main causes of photochemical smog as well as serve as a greenhouse gas. Hydrocarbons or volatile organic compounds are released into the air from automobile exhaust and contribute to photochemical smog (University of California 71).

Water pollution: causes and effects
Water resources such as the ocean, lakes, and rivers are polluted by the dumping of sewage and chemicals on a daily basis. These substances pollute not only the area where they are dumped, they are carried downstream polluting the water across large areas and carrying the pollution to the soil underneath and around the body of water (Jamison et al. 819). Similar to air pollution, there are several groups of water pollutants – inorganic materials, plant nutrient pollutants, thermal pollution, radioactive materials, sediments, organic chemical, oxygen-depleting wastes, infectious agents and plant nutrients. These pollutants have different effects on the water itself, and on the environment and human life. Chemicals such as mercury, lead, and mineral salts found in industrial and household wastewater can cause birth defects and cancer. They can render the water undrinkable and drinking water is vital for life. Organic chemicals such as pesticides and gasoline degrade water and can also lead to health consequences such as damage of the central nervous system, birth defects, and cancer in humans. Too much plant nutrients in the water can occur through runoffs from detergents and farm fertilizers leading to excessive algae growth in the water and disruption of the aquatic life (University of California 72)

Steps to reduce air and water pollution
The steps required to reduce or eliminate any pollutant depends on the nature of the pollutant, how it is produced, how it is used, and how it is disposed of. For instance, steps that are being taken to reduce pollution by the oxides of carbon include limiting the use of fossil fuels and using more of clean energy sources such as electric, wind, and solar energy. Use of oxygenated fuels and catalytic converters in automobiles can reduce the production of carbon monoxide. Oxides of sulfur can be combined with water to form useful sulfuric acid (University of California 71). Some of the steps that are being taken to reduce water pollution include processing of water in treatment plants. This process reduces the amount of pollutants like infectious agents, inorganic and organic chemicals that are in the water. The use of some chemicals such as hexavalent chromium compounds has also been restricted or banned outrightly in some countries (University of California 72). The release of pollutants into the air and water is particularly a problem in industrialized nations, compared to lesser developed nations that have a lower level of industrial activity. It is important that such countries continue to ban or regulate the use of harmful chemicals as well as improve treatment facilities to reduce harmful wastes into less harmful forms (Jamison et al. 825).

Water and air pollution are serious issues that affect the world we live in today. This paper is based on the position that the two issues are of equal concern because air and water are both necessary for life and for the health of the environment. Pollution of air and water resources has negative consequences for the humans, for the planet’s natural resources, and all life forms. It is important to take concrete steps to address this problem now and to continue to sustain those efforts in the future.

  • University of California. AP Environmental Science. University of California College, 2009. Prep. http://cnx.org/content/col10548/1.2/
  • Jamison, T, Breman, G, Measham, R. et al., editors. Disease Control Priorities in Developing Countries. 2nd edition. Oxford University Press, 2006.

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