The whole world needs to know about pollution and take steps to reduce it, because the negative effects of pollution are serious and potentially fatal. All types of pollution are detrimental to human health and wildlife and contribute to climate change, which puts the entire planet in danger. Knowledge is power, so learning about the effects of pollution is crucial to make changes for the better.
TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)
Air, soil and water pollution contribute to climate change and have a negative impact on human health. Pollutants also endanger many plant and animal species.
Effects of Air Pollution
Greenhouse gases, like fossil fuels released by vehicles and factories, and methane, released by livestock, contribute to air pollution and add to climate change by raising the earth's temperature. In a vicious circle, climate change then makes a certain type of air pollution worse. A reaction between combusting fossil fuel emissions and sunlight creates smog, a yellowish or blackish fog also known as "ground level ozone." Climate change also creates more allergenic air pollutants, such as mold caused by damp conditions and pollen caused by a longer pollen season and increased pollen production.
Air pollution can have a serious heath impact on humans. If you are exposed to very high levels of air pollutants, you may experience irritation of the eyes, nose and throat, wheezing, coughing and breathing problems and have a greater risk of heart attacks. Air pollution can also exacerbate existing lung and heart conditions, like asthma. Smog can irritate the eyes and throat and also damage the lungs. Children, senior citizens and people who work or exercise outside are at a greater risk. Those most at risk are people with asthma or allergies because pollutants can make their symptoms worse and trigger asthma attacks.
Across the world, climate change leads to more drought, heat waves, rising sea levels, storms, warming oceans and rising sea levels, which affect animal species by destroying their natural habitats.
Effects of Soil Pollution
Pollutants in soil, most often from industrial sources, deforestation and improper waste disposal, put animals and plants in danger. Soil polluted by chemicals eventually becomes infertile and unable to support crops and other plant life. This hinders food production and can lead to malnourishment in local communities. If soil pollutants produce contaminated food, anyone who eats it may become ill. Toxic soil may also cause illness through skin contact or inhalation.
Effects of Water Pollution
Pollutants in water resulting from trash, oil spills, sewage spills and run-off from agricultural fields, construction sites and factories affect native plant and animal species. Drinking contaminated water caused by sewage overflow may cause sickness and digestive problems in humans. Pollutants such as mercury in fish and seafood can lead to serious health problems, especially in children and pregnant women.
When water is poisoned, many animals die. Six months after the 2010 BP oil spill, which affected 16,000 miles of U.S. coastline, over 8,000 animals were reported dead. Animals are also often injured or killed by solid waste discarded in water.
- Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection: Health & Environmental Effects of Air Pollution
- United States Environmental Protection Agency: Overview of Greenhouse Gases
- NRDC: Air Pollution: Everything You Need to Know
- WWF: Effects of Climate Change
- DoSomething.org: 11 Facts About the BP Oil Spill
About the Author
Claire is a writer and editor with 18 years' experience. She writes about science and health for a range of digital publications, including Reader's Digest, HealthCentral, Vice and Zocdoc.
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