With more than thirty percent new material, Hill assesses pollution from an international perspective, including air and water pollution, global warming, energy, solid and hazardous waste, and pollution at home. Both the sources and impacts of pollution are addressed, as well as governmental, corporate, and personal responsibility for pollution, and pollution prevention is emphasized throughout. Non-technical language encourages greater understanding of these often complex issues, and thought-provoking 'Delving Deeper' exercises are included, increasing engagement with the text and enabling students to apply what they have learned.
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Understanding Environmental Pollution
Customer Reviews. Write a review. See any care plans, options and policies that may be associated with this product. Email address. Accessible, uncontaminated water is essential to all human activities, and water pollution is a persistent environmental issue. Contamination of surface, ground, ocean, and atmospheric water occurs when chemical, radioactive, and organic waste is washed, spilled, or dumped into water reservoirs at point and non-point sources.
Point sources of water pollution introduce concentrated waste products into rivers , aquifers, and oceans at focused entry points. Point sources such as oil spills, chemical leaks, and sewage discharges can often be easily corrected; the inflow of hazardous waste can be stopped, and the contaminated water reservoir can sometimes be cleansed. However, the immediate damage to ecosystems and water quality by highly concentrated chemicals at the spill site or pipe outlet may be irreversible, and cleanup is usually costly and difficult.
The Exxon Valdez oil spill in Prince William Sound , Alaska was a dramatic example of a point source of marine water pollution. Damaging materials also flow into streams and aquifers from diffuse, non-point sources like agricultural lands, logging tracts, mines, residential leach fields, and urban pavement. While non-point pollution is usually less concentrated, it is also more difficult to control, contain, and regulate. Furthermore, the environmental effects of non-point pollutants like fertilizers, pesticides, animal manure, and mining leachates often manifest themselves as systemic changes to aquatic environments that, in turn, reduce water quality.
For example, addition of organic materials, fertilizers, and detergents to streams and lakes enhances the natural process of eutrophication, in which aquatic vegetation chokes a stream or lake, and eventually kills the reservoir's aquatic fauna. Even very low concentrations of toxic heavy metals like those found in leachates from mine tailings, or lead plumbing, can result in toxic contamination of fish and mammals in an aquatic ecosystem.
Untreated sewage and agricultural runoff may introduce viral and bacterial pathogens that cause an array of human illnesses from typhoid to dysentery. Groundwater pollution occurs when contaminants enter an aquifer from a point or non-point source in a recharge zone, contaminated surface water infiltrates, or buried tanks and landfills leak into the groundwater. Groundwater flow paths are complex, and the ultimate site of contamination is often difficult to predict. In karst aquifers, groundwater flows fairly rapidly through interconnected limestone dissolution cavities with little filtration of dissolved materials.
Pollutants may thus be flushed from the groundwater in months or weeks, but contaminants often take unexpected paths through limestone aquifers, and eventually discharge, undiluted, at unexpected locations. In homogenous, porous aquifers, like the sandstone Ogalla aquifer in the south central United States , pollutants flow slowly from their points of entry, and are naturally filtered over time.
However, it is difficult to flush contamination from a sandstone aquifer, and recharge with fresh water is extremely slow.
Clear pollution with Pollutant
Groundwater contamination is of particular concern for sitting buried landfills, petroleum tanks, and particularly nuclear waste repositories. Groundwater contamination by harmful radioactive waste buried at nuclear weapons laboratories in Hanford, Washington, and Oak Ridge, Tennessee has cast doubt on nuclear waste disposal schemes.
Though contamination is often introduced into the atmosphere at point sources like smokestacks and exhaust pipes, air pollution is usually diffuse because atmospheric circulation is unconfined. Sulfur dioxide emitted by coal-burning electrical generators disperses widely into the atmosphere before chemically combining with water vapor to form sulfuric acid. The resulting corrosive acid rain falls on widespread areas far downwind of the original point source. Nitrogen oxides released from automobile engines are a main component of the brown smog that blankets many cities.
Nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide combine with other atmospheric chemicals in strong sunlight to form ozone, the component of smog that affects respiration and irritates humans' eyes. Ironically, ozone is harmful to humans in the lower atmosphere, but ozone in the outer atmosphere shields us from harmful, carcinogenic ultra-violet radiation.
Chapter 55 - Environmental Pollution Control
Another class of man-made chemicals, called chlorofluorocarbons CFCs , has chemically destroyed the shielding ozone in the stratosphere over Antarctica , creating the "Ozone Hole. The dramatic decrease in air and water quality during the twentieth century has spurred the scientific community to better understand the types of environmental pollution described above, and to devise solutions that reduce contamination.
Many governments have enacted legislation that encourages these solutions. In the United States , the Environmental Protection Agency 's Clean Water Act of , and Clean Air Act of strictly regulate industrial, agricultural and municipal sources of air and water pollution. Improved understanding of such complex processes as groundwater and atmospheric flow has led to safer methods of waste disposal, from properly-sited, lined landfills, to air filters on smoke stacks, to carburetors on automobiles.
Countries that have enacted these relatively inexpensive measures now enjoy much cleaner air and water than existed in the s. In , the international community signed the Montreal Protocol that eventually bans production of CFCs. However, a handful of the thorniest environmental problems facing the Earth's human population have consequences we have yet to understand, let alone reverse. Solutions to the most threatening and highly-politicized environmental issues, including global climate change, overpopulation, and loss of biological diversity may require significant international socioeconomic changes.
See also Atmospheric pollution; Global warming; Greenhouse gases and greenhouse effect ; Ozone layer and hole dynamics; Ozone layer depletion. In exceptional cases, however, the levels of environmental pollutants become so high that the effects on health are readily apparent, and severe enough to precipitate remedial action. The persistent London fog of led to so many cases of death due to respiratory problems that within a few years an Act of Parliament was passed which laid down limits on urban air pollution.
Most large conurbations around the world have experienced episodes of dramatic increases in pollution that have led to legally enforced changes in lifestyle, such as the introduction of restrictions in the use of private cars in Athens on days when air pollution rises above a certain level. Contamination of the atmosphere by the products of combustion has been a problem ever since the beneficial effects of fire were discovered. The blackened roofs of caves known to have been inhabited in prehistoric times are a silent reminder that environmental pollution is by no means a modern phenomenon.
The nitrogen oxides are potent pulmonary irritants and concentrations as low as 0. Incomplete combustion of complex organic molecules leads to the formation of polyaromatic hydrocarbons PAHs , which are known to be potent carcinogens. The interaction between nitrogen oxides and PAHs leads to formation of nitrated PAHs , which are in turn even more potent carcinogens.
However, ascribing increased risk of certain chronic diseases, such as lung cancer , to atmospheric pollution in general, or to individual components in particular, has proved rather difficult.
Exchange Discount Summary
For example, levels of many atmospheric pollutants are so low that active or passive exposure to cigarette smoke is the major contributor to exposure. Indoor air pollution is a particular case where exposures can be high simply because of the confined space and slow rates of exchange of air with the outside. Most combustion processes also lead to the production of particulate matter of such small dimensions less than 10 microns in diameter that they penetrate deeply into the lungs, where they lodge in the bronchioles or in the alveoli and cause local inflammation.
Automobile emissions share many of these properties of all combustion processes, but can also contain particular toxic agents such as lead, benzene, and 1,3-butadiene. Water is, in principle, the easiest of the environmental matrices to obtain in a pure state. However, our requirement for drinkable water of 1—2 litres per day lays quite stringent limits on the levels of contaminants which are compatible with a healthy lifestyle. The provision of clean water supplies has been, and continues to be for many parts of the world, one of the greatest contributions to improved public health.
Contamination of water by industrial processes can contribute to episodes of human poisoning either directly or indirectly, for example through the food chain. Perhaps one of the most dramatic examples of the latter in recent times was an incident of mercury poisoning caused by consumption of contaminated fish by families in a fishing community in Minimata, Japan. A proper balance has to be found between various risks from various toxic agents in the environment.
For example, chlorination of public water supplies has been found to lead to the production of low levels of organochlorine compounds via the reaction of chlorine with natural humic acids; as with many organochlorine compounds there have been concerns about possible toxicity from these substances. However, the hazards of not chlorinating water supplies were highlighted most recently by epidemics of cholera in Peru , when flooding led to contamination of water supplies and public health officials were hesitant about the use of chlorine.
Environmental pollutants can also be found in foods through contamination of soil. Metals such as mercury, cadmium, and arsenic and organohalogen compounds containing chlorine and bromine are examples of the kinds of toxic compounds that are absorbed through roots or leaves of plants. Much attention has been focused on the effects of environmental toxins on non-human species ecotoxicology.
A high incidence of tumours in the livers of bottom feeding fish, such as flounder in Boston Harbour, has been attributed to the effects of carcinogenic constituents of heavy marine motor oils.
Toxic effects in species which share our environment can sometimes act as an early warning of effects in humans in an analogous manner to the miner's canary, which at one time acted as a marker of poisonous gases in coalmines. In Rachel Carson published a highly influential book, Silent spring , which graphically described the deleterious consequences of the pollution of our environment by manmade chemicals, particularly pesticides. The widespread use, in the postwar years, of organochlorine and organophosphate pesticides for the eradication of agricultural pests and control of health hazards such as malaria began to be seen as a mitigated success.
The persistence of some pesticides in the environment led to unforeseen side-effects, such as the thinning of eggshells resulting in the dramatic reduction of bird populations in agricultural areas. David Shuker. Carson, R. Silent spring.
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