The Types of Environmental Pollution: Understanding their Causes

types of environmental pollutionWhether you are studying for an environmental science class or trying to learn the basics necessary to create a sustainable business or green lifestyle (which you can do by becoming a Green LEED business associate), understanding the various types of environmental pollution problems that our world is currently facing is of incredible importance. Recently, there has been a big movement toward establishing a more environmentally conscious society. Car companies have manufactured hybrid or electric cars to cut down on our reliance on fossil fuels, while the development of alternative energy is one of the most pervasive questions of our time, both from a political standpoint and a scientific one. You can even see this new move toward sustainability on a personal, case-by-case basis, as many people have started to pay more attention to articles that can teach you “how to go green” or “how to preserve energy.”

So what are the different types of environmental pollution, why are they a problem, and what can you do to help combat them? Depending on who you ask, there are usually between seven and 10 different categories of environmental pollution. Several of them are as well known as any movie star, including air pollution and water pollution, while others tend to be forgotten or overlooked.

Air Pollution

We will start off by discussing the most “popular” type of pollution out there, which is air pollution. I say “popular” not because air pollution is well liked or has fans, but because it is far and away the most discussed form of pollution in today’s modern political climate. Most of this is due to theories about greenhouse gases leading to global warming (or the more general and politically correct term of “climate change”). As a result, most of us think of air pollution as something that is caused primarily by big industrial factories and car exhaust, and while both of those sources due contribute to the problem, they are not the only factors at play.

In reality, air pollution occurs when any sort of contaminant is introduced into the atmosphere, thereby disrupting the chemical composition of said atmosphere. The most obvious of these contaminants is carbon dioxide, which is frequently cited as the most pervasive “greenhouse gas” in the Earth’s atmosphere. Theory states that these gases are trapping heat within the Earth’s atmosphere, in turn boosting the temperature of the planet overall. These temperature shifts can then have dire effects on Earth ecosystems, whether due to melting in the polar ice caps or simple seasonal shifts on land. The climate change portion of air pollution is sometimes split off into its own category, dubbed “thermal pollution.”

Still, climate change is not the only consequence of air pollution, nor are manmade sources aren’t the only contributing factors to air pollution. Air pollution can also bring about visible smog clouds (especially evident around big cities like Los Angeles), acid rain, cancer, asthma, and even the death or diminishing returns of crops due to lessened oxygen levels. Causes for air pollution due include exhaust from automobiles or factory machinery, but also include natural factors such as volcanic activity or forest wildfires.

Water Pollution

In many ways, water pollution is as serious – if not more so – than air contamination. With fresh water resources incredibly limited as is, every instance of water pollution threatens the future of the planet. As with air pollution, water pollution can be defined as any contamination of water resources around the planet. From rivers and streams to ponds, lakes, and rivers, water pollution can strike anywhere and in almost form, be it chemicals making their way into a lake, bacterial contamination from sewage leaks, or trash that ends up at the bottom of an ocean or floating down a river.

Water pollution can also be caused by natural factors, such as dead animals decomposing in water or growing levels of sediment leading to shallower and less substantial bodies of water. The consequences of water pollution, meanwhile, are fairly straightforward: pollutants in water has a direct effect on quantities of drinking water, which can have a dire impact not just on human populations, but on virtually every type of animal life. Contaminated water can, of course, be devastating to various types of marine biology, (a subject you can learn more about in this Udemy course) killing fish and other underwater organisms that cannot hope to escape toxic pollutants in their habitat. Finally, a loss of water purity also creates problems for crop growth and food production, as it leaves farmers without water to irrigate their crops.

Soil Pollution

Soil pollution is possibly most notable for the way that any contaminants in the ground can find their way to our water sources, thus bringing about greater levels of water pollution. However, contamination of ground soils – from oil spills and other hazardous waste dumps to heavy use of dangerous pesticides – can permeate virtually every faction of environmental health. By killing animals, crops, and trees (among other things), or by rendering water sources unusable, soil pollution can silently be one of the direst forms of environmental pollution in the world. Soil pollution is also known as land pollution, and can also arise from battery acid and other chemicals leaking from computers, appliances, and other types of human waste that have not been properly disposed of or recycled.

Nuclear Pollution

Also known as radioactive pollution, nuclear pollution is probably the rarest form of environmental pollution, and the most dangerous. Nuclear pollution is characterized by high levels of radiation concentrated in any one place, whether it is caused by nuclear bomb blasts, nuclear power plant accidents or leakages, improper disposal of radioactive waste, or anything else. As was proved in Japan following the World War II nuclear bombings, radiation pollution is incredibly detrimental to both human and animal populations, leading to cancers, birth defects, issues with human development – a topic you can learn more about on Udemy – and countless other horrific health problems.

Light Pollution, Noise Pollution, and Visual Pollution

These three types of pollution are probably the least discussed when it comes to environmental preservation, but all three are certainly forms of environmental pollution and are worth knowing about regardless.

  • Light pollution is most common in big cities, though it can also have an impact in suburban areas, around airports or big sporting event facilities, and along highways where illuminated billboards and streetlamps are common. For humans, light pollution is more of a irritation than an environmental concern, perhaps making it difficult to see the stars or interfering with sleep. For animals, however, light pollution can be more obtrusive, disrupting biological clocks, influencing natural predation patterns, and overall threatening animal habitats located nearby to heavily illuminated signs of human civilization.
  • Noise pollution can also create sizable disturbances to animal habitats. It is often tied to light pollution for how it arises from similar sources, including highways, airports, and loud sporting events or concerts, as well as from construction projects, railroads, and more. For humans, noise pollution is probably slightly more of a concern than light pollution, leading to a decreased standard of life thanks to the ability of noise to prevent sleep, distract from work, and bring about hearing loss. For animals, noise and light pollution combine as factors that have limited possible habitat options.
  • Finally, visual pollution can be anything that makes an area less aesthetically pleasing, from billboards and power lines to abandoned buildings, from litter along the side of the roads to landfills. In many cases, visual pollution can be little more than an annoyance. However, it can also be a sign of things that can create environmental problems in other categories of pollution, from litter that left to blow around aimlessly to abandoned human structures that are left to decompose and break down.

What You Can Do to Combat Environmental Pollution 

Now that you know about the various types of environmental pollution, you are probably wondering how you can do your part in combating each in order to make the world a cleaner and better place.

To prevent air pollution, you can look into finding cars with better fuel economy, or think about buying a hybrid or electric vehicle for your next car so as to cut back on your personal emissions.

To stave off both soil and water pollution, avoid polluting and make sure to properly recycle (especially your electronic devices and appliances) to make sure none of the chemicals in those products can leech into the ground or water. Reducing your own levels of waste and litter can also help with problems of visual pollution.

As you can see, there are numerous ways that you can help to fight against the problems of environmental pollution that the world is currently facing. One of the best ways to get involved is to invest in and work with fields regarding solar energy, which may be one of the next big steps toward cutting down on and eventually erasing environmental pollution. You can learn more about selling residential solar power in this Udemy course. Regardless of what you do, the important thing to remember is that there is only one Earth, so taking care of it is the most important thing we will ever do. Whether you adopt a greener lifestyle for yourself or to preserve the planet for future generations, there could be no more noble pursuit.