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Environmental Pollution
Environmental Pollution
Types of pollution
Air pollution
Water pollution
Soil pollution
Controlling pollution
Government action
Scientific efforts
Business and industry
Environmental organizations
The growth of pollution
Progress in controlling pollution
Current environmental issues
The Clean Development Mechanism
Global warming
Reducing emissions (REDD)
Swine Influenza
Heart Attack

Environmental Pollution

Environmental pollution is a term that refers to all the ways that human activity harms the natural environment. Most people have witnessed environmental pollution in the form of an open garbage dump or an automobile pouring out black smoke. However, pollution can also be invisible, odorless, and tasteless. Some kinds of pollution do not actually dirty the land, air, or water, but they reduce the quality of life for people and other living things. For example, noise from traffic and machinery can be considered forms of pollution.

Environmental pollution is one of the most serious problems facing humanity and other life forms today. Badly polluted air can harm crops and cause life-threatening illnesses. Some air pollutants have reduced the capacity of the atmosphere to filter out the sun's harmful ultraviolet radiation. Most scientists believe that these and other air pollutants have begun to change climates around the world. Water and soil pollution threaten the ability of farmers to grow enough food. Ocean pollution endangers many marine organisms.

Many people think of air, water, and soil pollution as distinct forms of pollution. However, each of the parts of an environment-air, water, and soil-depends upon the others and upon the plants and animals living within the environment. All the living things in an environment and the nonliving things with which they interact make up an ecosystem. All the ecosystems of Earth are connected. Thus, pollution that seems to affect only one part of the environment may also affect other parts. For example, sooty smoke from a power plant might appear to harm only the atmosphere. But rain can wash some harmful chemicals in the smoke out of the sky and onto land or into waterways.

Some pollution comes from one specific point or location, such as a sewage pipe spilling dirty water into a river. Such pollution is called point source pollution. Other pollution comes from large areas. Water can run off farmland and carry pesticides and fertilizers into rivers. Rain water can wash gasoline, oil, and salt from highways and parking lots into the wells that supply drinking water. Pollution that comes from such large areas is called nonpoint source pollution.

Nearly everyone would like to have pollution reduced. Unfortunately, most of the pollution that now threatens the health of our planet comes from products that many people want and need. For example, automobiles provide the convenience of personal transportation, but they create a large percentage of the world's air pollution. Factories make products that people use and enjoy, but industrial processes can also pollute. Pesticides and fertilizers aid in growing large quantities of food, but they also poison the soil and water.

To end or greatly decrease pollution, people would have to reduce their use of cars and other modern conveniences, and some factories would have to close or change production methods. Because most people's jobs are dependent on industries that contribute to environmental pollution, shutting down these industries would increase unemployment. In addition, if farmers suddenly stopped using chemical fertilizers and pesticides, there might be less food to feed the people of the world.

Over time, however, pollution can be reduced in many ways without seriously disrupting people's lives. For example, governments can pass laws that encourage businesses to adopt less-polluting methods of operation. Scientists and engineers can develop products and processes that are cleaner and safer for the environment. And individuals around the world can themselves find ways to reduce environmental pollution.

Marian R. Chertow, M.P.P.M., Director, Industrial Environmental Management Program, Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.
Source :
World Book 2005

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