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Animal & Environmental Biology

Environmental Pollutions and Its Implications on Human And Other Animals

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ABSTRACT

Environment pollution is a wide-reaching problem and it is likely to influence the health of human populations.. This seminar provides the insight view about the effects of environment pollution in the perspective of air pollution, water and land/soil, noise pollution on human by diseases and problems, animals and trees/ plants.

Study finds that these kinds of pollutions are not only seriously affecting the human by diseases and problems but also the animals and trees/plants.

CHAPTER ONE

1.0    INTRODUCTION

Environmental pollution is “the contamination of the physical and biological components of the earth/atmosphere system to such an extent that normal environmental processes are adversely affected.

Pollution is the introduction of contaminants into the environment that cause harm or discomfort to humans or other living organisms, or that damage the environment” which can come “in the form of chemical substances, or energy such as noise, heat or light”. “Pollutants can be naturally occurring substances or energies, but are considered contaminants when in excess of natural levels.

Perhaps the overriding theme of these definitions is the ability of the environment to absorb and adapt to changes brought about by human activities.

In one word, environmental pollution takes place when the environment cannot process and neutralize harmful by-products of human activities (for example, poisonous gas emissions) in due course without any structural or functional damage to its system.

In fact, “the due course” itself may last many years during which the nature will attempt to decompose the pollutants; in one of the worst cases – that of radioactive pollutants – it may take as long as thousands of years for the decomposition of such pollutants to be completed.

Pollution occurs, on the one hand, because the natural environment does not know how to decompose the unnaturally generated elements (i.e., anthropogenic pollutants), and, on the other, there is a lack of knowledge on the part of humans on how to decompose these pollutants artificially.

Although pollution had been known to exist for a very long time (at least since people started using fire thousands of years ago), it had seen the growth of truly global proportions only since the onset of the industrial revolution during the 19th century.

The industrial revolution brought with it technological progress such as discovery of oil and its virtually universal use throughout different industries.

Technological progress facilitated by super efficiency of capitalist business practices (division of labour – cheaper production costs – overproduction – overconsumption – overpollution) had probably become one of the main causes of serious deterioration of natural resources.

At the same time, of course, development of natural sciences led to the better understanding of negative effects produced by pollution on the environment.

Environmental pollution is a problem both in developed and developing countries. Factors such as population growth and urbanization invariably place greater demands on the planet and stretch the use of natural resources to the maximum.

It has been argued that the carrying capacity of Earth is significantly smaller than the demands placed on it by large numbers of human populations. And overuse of natural resources often results in nature’s degradation. Examples of environmental pollutions include, Air pollution, Water pollution, Noise polllution and Land pollution.

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1.1  Air Pollution

Air pollution is the introduction of harmful substances including particulates and biological molecules into Earth’s atmosphere. It may cause diseases, allergies or death in humans; it may also cause harm to other living organisms such as animals and food crops, and may damage the natural or built environment. Human activity and natural processes can both generate air pollution.

Implication On Humans

Air pollution is a significant risk factor for a number of pollution-related diseases and health conditions including respiratory infections, heart disease, COPD, stroke and lung cancer. The health effects caused by air pollution may include difficulty in breathing, wheezing, coughing, asthma and worsening of existing respiratory and cardiac conditions. These effects can result in increased medication use, increased doctor or emergency room visits, more hospital admissions and premature death. The human health effects of poor air quality are far reaching, but principally affect the body’s respiratory system and the cardiovascular system. Individual reactions to air pollutants depend on the type of pollutant a person is exposed to, the degree of exposure, and the individual’s health status and genetics. The most common sources of air pollution include particulates, ozone, nitrogen dioxide, and sulphur dioxide. Children aged less than five years that live in developing countries are the most vulnerable population in terms of total deaths attributable to indoor and outdoor air pollution.

1.2  Water Pollution

Water pollution is the contamination of water bodies (e.g. lakes, rivers, oceans, aquifers and groundwater). This form of environmental degradation occurs when pollutants are directly or indirectly discharged into water bodies without adequate treatment to remove harmful compounds.

Water pollution affects the entire biosphere – plants and organisms living in these bodies of water. In almost all cases the effect is damaging not only to individual species and population, but also to the natural biological communities.

Implication On Humans

Disease-causing microorganisms are referred to as pathogens. Although the vast majority of bacteria are either harmless or beneficial, a few pathogenic bacteria can cause disease. Coliform bacteria, which are not an actual cause of disease, are commonly used as a bacterial indicator of water pollution. Other microorganisms sometimes found in surface waters that have caused human health problems.

1.3   Land Pollution

Land pollution is the degradation of earth’s land surfaces often caused by human activities and its misuse. Haphazard disposal of urban and industrial wastes, exploitation of minerals, and improper use of soil by inadequate agricultural practices are a few of the contributing factors. Also, increasing urbanization, industrialization, and other demands on the environment and its resources is of great consequence to many countries.

Implication on humans

In some areas, more metal ores had to be extracted out of the ground, melted and cast using coal out of the ground and cooled using water, which raised the temperature of water in rivers. (This reduces the oxygen carrying capacity of the water and affects all the living things there.) The excavation of metal ores, sand and limestone led to large scale quarrying and defacing of the countryside. To a large extent this has stopped or is more closely controlled, and attempts have been made to use the holes profitably, that is, sand pits have been turned into boating lakes and quarries have been used as landfill waste sites.

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1.4   Noise Pollution

High level noise is a disturbance to the human environment. Because of urbanization, noise in all areas in a city has increased considerably. One of the most pervasive sources of noise in our environment today is those associated with transportation. People reside adjacent to highways, are subjected to high level of noise produced by trucks and vehicles pass on the highways. Prolonged exposure to high level of noise is very much harmful to the health of mankind.

In industry and in mines the main sources of noise pollution are blasting, movement of heavy earth moving machines, drilling, crusher and coal handling plants etc. The critical value for the development of hearing problems is at 80 decibels.

Biological Decomposition of Environmental Pollutants

Biological decomposition of Environmental Pollutants are divided into two namely:

1.   Biodegradable Pollutants

2.   Non-Biodegradable Pollutants

1.5   BIODEGRADABLE POLLUTANTS

Biodegradable pollutants are the ones that can be broken down and processed by living organisms, including organic waste products, phosphates, and inorganic salts.

For example, if a pollutant is organic, it can be used by a living organism to obtain energy and other material from carbohydrates, proteins etc.

Therefore, biodegradable pollutants are only “temporary nuisances” that can be neutralised and converted into harmless compounds.

However, it is important to remember that they can become serious pollutants if released in large amounts in small areas, thus exceeding the natural capacity of the environment to “assimilate” them.

1.6   NON-BIODEGRADABLE POLLUTANTS

Non-biodegradable pollutants are the ones that cannot be decomposed by living organisms and therefore persist in the ecosphere for extremely long periods of time.

They include plastics, metal, glass, some pesticides and herbicides, and radioactive isotopes.

In addition to that, fat soluble (but not water soluble) non-biodegradable pollutants, ex. mercury and some hydrocarbons, are not excreted with urine but are accumulated in the fat of living organisms and cannot be metabolised.

Non-Biological Decomposition of Environmental Pollutants

Non-biological decomposition of non-biodegradable pollutants requires a combination of many factors, such as wind, water and climate to work together to achieve neutralisation of pollutants.

Some of the most dangerous pollutants such as radioactive isotopes can decompose by themselves but it will take them thousands of years.

Removal of Air Pollutants from the Atmosphere

Air pollutants, as opposed to solid and liquid pollutants found on land and in water, may be removed from the atmosphere through wet deposition or dry deposition.

In case of wet deposition pollutants make way into clouds or other precipitation and then get deposited onto the surface of the Earth by way of rain. In case of dry deposition, pollutants are deposited directly onto the planet’s surface and vegetation, such as plants and trees of tropical rainforests.

We may assume that once air pollution has been deposited onto the planet’s surface, the normal rules of biological and non-biological decomposition for other types of pollutants will apply.

1.7   TYPES OF ENVIRONMENTAL POLLUTION

There are many types of environmental pollution but the most important ones are:

  • Air pollution
  • Water pollution
  • Soil pollution (contamination)

Air Pollution

Some of the most notable air pollutants are sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, ozone, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and airborne particles, with radioactive pollutants probably among the most destructive ones (specifically when produced by nuclear explosions).

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Water Pollution

They include insecticides and herbicides, food processing waste, pollutants from livestock operations, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), heavy metals, chemical waste and others.

SOIL POLLUTION (CONTAMINATION)

Some soil pollutants are: hydrocarbons, solvents and heavy metals.

1.8   SOURCES OF ENVIRONMENTAL POLLUTION

Fossil Fuel Sources of Environmental Pollution

In modern industrialized societies, fossil fuels (oil, gas, coal) transcended virtually all imaginable barriers and firmly established themselves in our everyday lives.

Not only do we use fossil fuels for our obvious everyday needs (such as filling a car), as well as in the power-generating industry, they (specifically oil) are also present in such products as all sorts of plastics, solvents, detergents, asphalt, lubricating oils, a wide range of chemicals for industrial use, etc

Combustion of fossil fuels produces extremely high levels of air pollution and is widely recognized as one of the most important “target” areas for reduction and control of environmental pollution.

Fossil fuels also contribute to soil contamination and water pollution. For example, when oil is transported from the point of its production to further destinations by pipelines, an oil leak from the pipeline may occur and pollute soil and subsequently groundwater. When oil is transported by tankers by ocean, an oil spill may occur and pollute ocean water.

Of course, there are other natural resources whose exploitation is a cause of serious pollution; for example, the use of uranium for nuclear power generation produces extremely dangerous waste that would take thousands of years to neutralize.

But there is no reasonable doubt that fossil fuels are among the most serious sources of environmental pollution.

Power-generating plants and transport are probably the biggest sources of fossil fuel pollution.

Common sources of fossil fuel pollution are:

Industry:

  • Power-generating plants
  • Petroleum refineries
  • Petrochemical plants
  • Production and distribution of fossil fuels
  • Other manufacturing facilities

Transport:

  • Road transport (motor vehicles)
  • Shipping industry
  • Aircraft
  • Fossil fuel combustion is also a major source of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and perhaps the most important cause of global warming. Learn more about the causes and effects of global warming here.

·        Other (Non-Fossil Fuel) Sources of Environmental Pollution

  • Among other pollution sources, agriculture (livestock farming) is worth mentioning as the largest generator of ammonia emissions resulting in air pollution.
  • Chemicals such as pesticides and fertilizers are also widely used in agriculture, which may lead water pollution and soil contamination as well.
  • Trading activities may be another source of environmental pollution.
  • For example, it’s been recently noted that packaging of products sold in supermarkets and other retail outlets is far too excessive and generates large quantities of solid waste that ends up either in landfills or municipal incinerators leading to soil contamination and air pollution.
  • Residential sector is another significant source of pollution generating solid municipal waste that may end up in landfills or incinerators leading to soil contamination and air pollution.

Pages:  71

Category: Seminar

Format:  Word & PDF

Chapters: 1-4

Material contains Table of Content, Abstract and References

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