Although environmental pollution continues to become an escalating problem, more consumer awareness regarding this concern is leading to a push for offenders to clean up their act. Here, we explore the three environmental areas pollution affects the most and what is being done to curb its effects.
Air pollution refers to the presence of gaseous and solid particles that get dissolved in the air due to the burning of fossil fuels, chemicals from factories, ozone and even natural sources like dust and pollen. Some pollutants have adverse health effects when inhaled and can cause poisonings, cancer and other diseases.
One major concern when it comes to air pollution is the growing concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) that is present in our atmosphere. Carbon dioxide is released from the combustion of coal, gasoline and most other materials, and it is a major contributing cause to global climate change due to its ability to trap heat within the atmosphere in what’s known as the greenhouse effect.
The Environmental Protection Agency has put air quality standards in place that companies must adhere to, such as caps on the number of pollutants that can be released into the air and fuel-efficiency standards for modern vehicles. Over time, we can hope that these limits begin to curb this growing problem.
Similarly to air pollution, water pollution is the contamination of bodies of water due to human activities. Since water is quickly becoming more scarce, reducing the effects of water pollution is a very important issue.
Polluted water can seep into underground water tables and reservoirs and have a detrimental effect on the health of those exposed to the pollutants. Pollutants can also affect farmed fish, making them incredibly toxic. Common water pollutants include heavy metals such as lead and mercury, bacteria from sewage treatment plants and even dangerous medications that are flushed down the toilet. Many electrical companies are worried about their effect on the water and the long-term ramifications of current power models, and they have begun implementing environmental practices to reduce the pollution caused by their industries.
One way average Americans can help reduce this problem is by recycling products that contain dangerous chemicals, such as light bulbs, ink cartridges, and batteries, instead of throwing them out. Not flushing medications into the sewer system and reducing the use of harsh cleaning chemicals can also help to significantly reduce water pollution in the long run.
Also known as land pollution, soil contamination occurs when toxic chemical waste is dumped into the ground instead of being properly disposed of. These chemicals can leech into nearby underground water reservoirs and be carried far away, affecting the health of people a long way away from the original dumping site. Although many environmental regulations have been put into place to reduce these unethical practices, accidental leaks of oil and other substances can and do still happen.
We’re all part of the environment, and our environmental choices can make a difference. It’s important to both educate ourselves in order to become better environmental stewards as well as putting pressure on our government and bad corporate actors in order to reduce the negative effects that pollution can have on our planet.