The Pollution Spectrum
Yes, air pollution exists! However, that is not the only type of pollution that plagues society and the environment today. HEAL has outlined four types, shown below!
“Water and air, the two essential fluids on which all life depends, have become global garbage cans.”
― Jacques-Yves Cousteau
Pollutions levels are rising every year, especially do to gas emissions and fumes released from large-scale industries. However, the consequences cannot just be attributed to such areas; we, as a society, have to understand the problem and its complexity in order to change our practices. Only then can we make this world a better place!
Air Pollution -> Health
HEAL has provided, below, a short synopsis on how air pollution affects human health.
Vehicle emissions, fossil fuels for heating, manufacturing and power generation
factories, and fumes from chemical production make up
human origin air pollution.
Smoke from wildfires, ash and gases from volcanic eruptions and gases, like methane, from
decomposing organic matter in soils are natural sources of ail pollution.
Noxious gases, which include carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides (NOx), and
sulfur oxides (SOx), are components of motor vehicle emissions and byproducts of industrial
Particulate matter (PM) is composed of chemicals such as sulfates, nitrates, carbon, or mineral
dusts. Vehicle and industrial emissions from fossil fuel combustion, cigarette smoke, and
burning organic matter, such as wildfires, all contain PM.
A subtype of fine particulate matter (PM 2.5) is 30 times thinner than a human hair! It can be inhaled deeply into human lungs and cause serious health problems. PM 2.5 accounts for most health effects due to air pollution in the U.S.
Water Pollution -> Health
Water is essential for all forms of life but contaminated water leads to millions of deaths and even more illnesses every year, around the globe.
Corroded water pipes that leach harmful chemicals.
Hazardous waste sites and industrial discharges
Pesticides and fertilizers from agricultural operations
Naturally occurring hazardous chemicals, such as arsenic
Sewage and food processing waste
Worldwide, almost 2 billion people drink contaminated water
Arsenic is a known human carcinogen associated with skin, lung, bladder, kidney, and liver cancer. Lead can causebehavioral and developmental effects in children; and heart and kidney problems. Pesticides can lead to neurodevelopmental effects and neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s Disease.
Food Pollution -> Health
Food contamination occurs when foods are spoiled or tainted with either microorganisms, such as bacteria or parasites, or toxic substances that make them unfit for consumption.
- A food contaminant can be biological, chemical or physical in nature. These contaminants have several routes throughout the supply chain to make a food product unfit for consumption.
- Common microbial contaminants: Bacillus cereus, Campylobacter jejuni, Clostridium botulinum, etc.
- Chemical food contaminants include pesticides, heavy
metals, and other toxic chemical agents.
Microbial contamination can cause severe gastrointestinal disease and sometimes can even spread into the blood stream causing life threatening illness.
Soil Pollution -> Health
Soil pollution occurs due to the presence of toxic chemicals in soil, in high enough concentrations to pose a risk to human health and/or the ecosystem.
There are two main sources
of soil pollution: anthropogenic (man-made) and natural.
Such contaminants include metals, inorganic ions and salts (e.g. phosphates, carbonates, sulfates,
nitrates), and many organic compounds (such as lipids, proteins, DNA, fatty acids, hydrocarbons,
PAHs, alcohols, etc.).
Many compounds get into the soil from the atmosphere, for instance with precipitation, as
well as by wind activity or other types of soil disturbances, and shallow groundwater flowing
through the soil.
- Children are usually more exposed to soil contaminants, because they frequently are playing in
the ground; their rapidly dividing tissues are more vulnerable to biologic alteration.
- Humans can be affected by soil pollution by inhaling gases emitted from or through the
inhalation of matter that is disturbed by wind.
- Health problems: headaches, nausea, fatigue, skin rash, eye irritation. Long term: potentially more serious conditions like neuromuscular blockage, kidney and liver damage and various forms of cancer may also occur.