"In an underdeveloped country, don't drink the water; in a developed country, don't breathe the air." ~Changing Times Magazine
Gulf Oil Spill in Alabama, June 12, 2010 | © Danny E Hooks
Pollution can take many forms: the air we breathe, the water we drink, the soil we use to grow our food, the lit-up skies and even the increasing noise we hear every day can all contribute to health problems and a lower quality of life with major disruptions and effects on wildlife and ecosystems. One of the greatest problems that the world is facing today is that of environmental pollution, which is causing grave and irreparable damage to the natural world and human society with about 40% of deaths worldwide being caused by water, air and soil pollution and coupled with human overpopulation has contributed to the malnutrition of 3.7 billion people worldwide, making them more susceptible to disease. A polluted environment is a polluted society - one we created and one only we can renew. Pollution is defined as the introduction of harmful substances or products into the environment, which are typically foreign substances, particularly a contaminant or toxin, that produce some kind of a negative or harmful impact on the environment or living beings. Pollution occurs in many forms ranging from chemicals in the form of gases or liquids, noise, energy sources such as light or heat, or solids such as the types of waste that end up in landfills. Even naturally occurring substances, such as carbon dioxide and mercury, can be considered pollution when additional quantities are added to the environment in unsafe amounts by industries which can have detrimental effects on the environment and all forms of life, including humans. Learn more.
Both indoor and outdoor air pollution is a major environmental health problem affecting everyone in developed and developing countries alike. Most of the world's population will be subject to degraded air quality in 2050 if human-made emissions continue as usual. In this 'business-as-usual' scenario, the average world citizen 40 years from now will experience similar air pollution to that of today's average East Asian citizen.
Water is where life began and why life continues, but it is also the world's most threatened essential resource. In addition to the accelerating climatic-driven threat of drought, where water sources all over the world face the threat of potentially drying up as the warming climate accelerates, water is becoming increasingly polluted every year. Polluted, unsafe water is the leading cause of sickness and death with half of the world's hospital beds filled with people suffering from water-related illnesses.
Soil pollution occurs when the presence of toxic chemicals, pollutants or contaminants in the soil is in high enough concentrations to be of risk to plants, wildlife, humans and of course, the soil itself. Arable land is turning to desert and becoming non-arable at ever-increasing rates, due largely in part to global warming and agricultural fertilizers and pesticides, lessening the hope that we can feed our booming population.
Noise pollution is an unwanted or disturbing sound which can interfere with normal activities for humans and wildlife, such as sleeping, conversation, reproduction, communication, or disrupt or diminish one's quality of life. Excessive noise pollution, from the city streets to the oceans' commercial shipping traffic, can have harmful effects on the humans, plants, animals, trees and marine life constantly exposed to it.
Light pollution is excessive, misdirected or misused light that can harm human health, wildlife, ecosystems and astronomy. Although light pollution is one of the least known types of pollution, its effects on human health and ecosystems can be just as serious as some of the better-known forms of pollution.