Pollution

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What is Pollution?
Pollution is defined as the presence in or introduction into the environment of a substance or thing that has harmful or poisonous effect. Pollution can be chemical substances, noise, heat, light, foreign objects, or anything that does not belong in an environment. Pollution has been happening since man began to start fires but up until the Industrial revolution in the 1800’s, nature could handle the amounts of pollution humans were putting out. After the Industrial revolution, civilizations began to notice problems that nature could not fix on her own and we begin to see coverage of these incidents in the media and legislation to try and limit these problems.
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Some famous example of pollution:
The dark patch in the middle of the map is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. It is created by the way the currents cycle through the Pacific Ocean and all the pollution that ends up in the water.
  • Great Pacific Garbage Patch
  • The Great Smog of 1952 in London, England
  • PCB dumping in the Hudson River in 1974
  • Dioxin contamination at Love Canal starting in 1947
  • Hexavalent chromium releases in California (the movie Erin Brockovich it based on this case)
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Effects of Pollution
Human Health
Pollution has significant effects on the health of human populations. Different types of Air pollution can cause respiratory disease, cardiovascular disease, throat inflammation, chest pain, and congestion. Water pollution causes 14,000 deaths each day due to contaminated drinking water being consumed by those who have no other choice. This water pollution can be bacterial (from things like untreated sewage being dumping into the water body) or chemical (from runoff from industrial sources, agricultural fields, or urban runoff), but either way, it has disastrous consequences for the body. Oil spills cause skin irritations and rashes while noise pollution may induce hearing loss, high blood pressure, stress, and sleep disturbance. Mercury, lead, and other heavy metals cause neurological problems for those that come in contact with them. Exposure to chemicals and radioactive substances can cause cancer and birth defects.

Environmental Effects
Pollution has disastrous consequences for the environment as well. Some chemicals and toxins bio-magnify up trophic levels (food chains), becoming more concentrated and toxic as they reach higher trophic levels. Carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases lead to ocean acidification and global warming. High levels of air pollution cause smog and hazes that reduce the amount of sunlight reaching plants, disrupting photosynthesis. Other types of air pollution cause acid rain. Spilled chemicals and polluted water runoff can pollute soils as well making the infertile and unsuitable for growing anything. Litter left on land in and the water can entrap animals, be eaten by them and make them sick, and cause disease and injury to them.
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So what can you do?
There are lots of ways you can make a difference in pollution in our world. Here is a list of a few:
  • Reuse anything that you can and Recycle everything you can’t reuse if at all possible.
  • Start a Compost pile for organic wastes (food scrapes, lawn and garden clippings, etc.)
  • Buy Biodegradable products and products that have as little packaging as possible
  • Always dispose of oil and other chemicals properly rather than dumping them on the ground
  • Carpool or ride your bike to where you are going if possible
  • Don’t smoke- not only is it bad for your health but it’s bad for the environment as well
  • Try to avoid harsh cleaners in favor of greener ones that produce fewer fumes and have fewer toxic chemicals in them
  • Don’t dump chemicals or solvents down the drains
  • Avoid using pesticides and fertilizers as much as possible and make sure runoff doesn’t run into water systems
  • Limit the use of gas-powered mowers, leaf blowers, and snow blowers. If possible use a manual or electric powered one.
  • Keep your house energy efficient by weather-stripping, insulating, lowering the thermostat, using energy efficient light bulbs, and lowering the temperature on your water heater.
  • Keep your vehicle well maintained for savings for you and the environment.
  • Conserve water by turning of the tap when brushing teeth, doing dishes, and other activities when it is not absolutely necessary to have it on.
  • Don’t throw litter and pick up any litter you can.
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Some Fast Facts about Pollution:
  • Every year, one American produces over 3285 pounds of hazardous waste
  • We throw away enough trash every day to fill 63,000 garbage trucks
  • Over 2/3 of U.S. estuaries and bays are severely degraded because of nitrogen and phosphorous pollution
  • Over 73 different kinds of pesticides have been found in groundwater around the world that eventually people drink
  • Over 1 billion people lack access to safe drinking water around the globe. 5,000 of them die every day.
  • 14 billion pounds of garbage are dumped into the ocean every year. Most of it is plastic.
  • People who live in places with high levels of air pollution have a 20% higher risk of death from lung cancer.
  • Approximately 40% of the water bodies in America are too polluted for fishing, aquatic life, or swimming.

References
For more information, please see:
Wikipedia- pollution
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pollution
Green Student U
http://www.greenstudentu.com/encyclopedia/pollution
Do Something.Org
http://www.dosomething.org/tipsandtools/11-facts-about-pollution
Worst Polluted.org
http://www.worstpolluted.org/pollution-facts-2009.html
Washington State Department of Ecology
http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/air/Health_community/Community.html