Pollution is a major global issue that affects all countries. It is imperative to note that human activity is a major cause of pollution. As such, in attempts to mitigate environmental pollution, human activities should be regulated.
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This article discusses the major forms of pollution, including air, water, noise, and soil pollution. Key emphasis is put on sources of pollutants, effects of pollution, and methods of mitigating pollution. The paper concludes by giving some recommendations pertinent to mitigating pollution or reducing the levels of global pollution.
Globally, the levels of pollution are increasingly becoming more perturbing. Intensified urbanization and industrialization have resulted in high demands for goods and services. As such, there are extremely high demands for and consumption of energy. Concurrently, waste is generated at alarming rates and poorly disposed of without proper treatment (Kelishadi, 2012).
Although there are various approaches used in defining environmental pollution, some principle elements stand out in many definitions. A precise definition of environmental pollution encompasses the idea of contaminating the environment with substances that affect the ecosystem in negative ways (Rizwan, Nongkynrih, & Gupta, 2013). Pollution can be broadly categorized into four key classifications, including water pollution, air pollution, noise pollution, and soil contamination. Other sub-categories include thermal and radioactive pollution, among others. This article discusses pollution paying key interest in forms, effects, and mitigation of pollution.
International regulatory policies and agreements
Pollution has adverse transboundary effects on the environment. Nearly all the countries in the world are affected by pollution. In addition, all countries contribute to environmental pollution because of industrialization and urbanization. As such, environmental sustainability is a global concern and, therefore, countries all over the world strive to reduce pollution levels by regulating the emission of harmful substances and controlling waste disposal.
In their endeavors to regulate the level of pollution, countries set up local policies and bodies. In addition, countries enter into different international agreements signing treaties to conserve the environment. The following are some of the most prominent international treaties and regulations aimed at the mitigation of environmental pollution.
- The 1988 Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal. The agreement was realized to regulate the disposal of waste. Developed countries, before the Basel Convention, disposed of their waste beyond their borders, causing adverse environmental effects on importing countries.
- The 2001 Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutions was signed to regulate, restrict, and ban certain harmful POPs. In addition, signatories of the convention must meet set conditions to manage POPs in environmentally sound manners.
- The 1994 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change was enacted to regulate carbon emissions with an aim of addressing climate change and global warming.
- The Kyoto protocol.
- The Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution.
- The 1981 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
- The 1998 Convention for the Application of Prior Informed Consent (PIC) Procedure for certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade.
- The International Convention on Oil Pollution Preparedness, Response, and Cooperation in 1990.
- The 1994 International Atomic Energy Agency Convention on Nuclear Safety.
It is worth noting that not all of the above international agreements on pollution are in force. Additionally, some of the industrialized countries are not signatories to some of the treaties. For instance, the United States of America is a major exporter of transboundary wastes, but it is not a member of the Basel Convention.
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Further, international policies and laws are oftentimes violated. The lack of an international body or policy agency to administer the implementation of the agreements makes it hard for countries to comply. Nonetheless, some countries do comply to avoid economic sanctions, portray positive images, and maintain positive publicity.
Forms of pollution
The environment is composed of natural gasses that customarily support the ecosystem. Nonetheless, the air is constantly made impure by harmful materials resulting in abnormal functioning of the ecosystem.
Major air pollutants
Poisonous gasses, dust, and other suspended particles pollute the indoor and ambient air. Some of the most common air pollutants include Black Smoke, Black Carbon, Nitrogen Dioxide, Nitrogen Oxide, Particulate Matter, Particles smaller than 2.5 μm (PM2.5), and Total suspended particles (Hoek, et al., 2013).
Sources of air pollution
As mentioned earlier, industrialization and urbanization are key reasons for pollution. Many production firms in different countries produce goods using sources of energy that emit harmful gasses. In addition, by-products of some production processes are harmful substances that are released into the air (US Environmental Protection Agency, 2016).
Second, ports and rail yards are major sources of air pollutants. Ports and rail yards are full of locomotives and trucks that constantly emit air pollutants. Near-port and near-rail emissions account for a considerable percentage of air pollution, especially in the surrounding areas (US Environmental Protection Agency, 2016).
Third, wildfires produce smokes that constitute substantive sources of air pollutants. Although wildfires are rare in most parts of the world, they are catastrophic whenever they occur.
Fourth, roadways are major areas with highly concentrated levels of air pollutants. Major roads in most parts of the world, especially big cities, are full of cars, trucks, and other vehicles that emit harmful substances that pollute the air (US Environmental Protection Agency, 2016).
Health problems related to air pollution
Currently, the world is concentrated with high levels of air pollutants that are linked to a considerable number of health problems (Hoek, et al., 2013). As such, morbidity and mortality levels are increased, especially resulting from cardiovascular and respiratory diseases.
Various studies have been done to examine the effects of long-term air pollution exposure on human health. Links between long-term exposure to air pollution and adverse health issues have been established.
For instance, prolonged or repetitive exposure to PM2.5 has been linked to many heart ailments and consequent deaths (Hoek, et al., 2013). In addition, NO2 exposure has been a cause of many deaths. Further, long-term exposure to air pollutants may result in skin problems. Skin related issues like premature aging, allergies, atopic dermatitis, skin cancer, and inflammation can be linked to exposure to air pollutants (Drakaki, Dessinioti, & Antoniou, 2014).
Mitigating air pollution
Air pollution is a major global health and environmental concern. Therefore, all stakeholders should come up with pertinent approaches to control air pollution. The following are some of the possible techniques that can be adopted to mitigate air pollution.
- Using alternative sources of energy, renewable energy, (with minimal or no air pollutants).
- Proper use of control devices.
- Proper use of scrubbers.
- Treatment of industrial emissions before releasing them to the environment.
Water is an extremely vital source of life and probably one the most important natural resources in the ecosystem (Reddy & Lee, 2012). Although water contributes a substantial percentage of matter in the earth, less than 1% is readily available for human consumption. In addition, the readily available water is gradually becoming unsafe because of high levels of water pollution (Reddy & Lee, 2012).
Major sources of water pollutants
Water pollutants emanate from various sources, including oil spillages, industrial waste, drilling, water hyacinth, pharmaceuticals, fluoride, pesticides, and metals among others (Owa, 2013).
Effects of water pollution
As mentioned earlier, water is a vital source of life and an important component of the ecosystem. Therefore, water pollution has adverse effects on the environment and human health. Water pollution exposes life to grave risks, especially when drinking and domestic water is affected. Some of the diseases associated with water pollution and water contamination include cholera, typhoid, and tuberculosis (Owa, 2013).
Further, water pollution has adverse effects on the aquatic ecosystem. Oil spillages are sources of water pollutants. Oil spillages alter air movement in water resulting in the suffocation of fishes, seaweeds, marine birds among other living aquatic organisms. Other water pollutants like DDT can affect aquatic organisms and animals that feed on affected sea creatures.
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Water treatment methods
Safe water available for drinking, domestic use, and a properly balanced ecosystem is gradually becoming scarce. Therefore, it is imperative to treat polluted water to make it safe. There are diverse techniques that can be used to treat polluted water. Nonetheless, not all techniques are effective, especially in treating highly polluted water.
For instance, treating water with complex chemical mixtures using orthodox techniques may not be effective. As such, complex methods such as ozonation, chlorination, adsorption and other advanced techniques can be adopted in eliminating pollutants in water (Reddy & Lee, 2012).
Mitigating water pollution
It is imperative to mitigate water pollution to avert the numerous adverse effects the phenomenon has on the environment and human health. The following are some of the methods that could be adopted to mitigate water pollution.
- Properly treating of waste before disposal.
- Reducing the use of pesticides and inorganic fertilizers.
- Use of nontoxic cleaning materials.
- Properly packing oil containers to avoid spillages.
- Dealing with polluting aquatic vegetation like water hyacinths.
The living environment should be as quiet as possible. Nonetheless, the levels of noise in many parts of the world, especially in rapidly developing cities and towns, are extremely high, posing a significant environmental concern.
Sources of noise
Noise emanates from different sources, including roadways, airports, industries, railway stations among others. Traffic noise, however, is a major concern and arguably the most rigorous source of noise pollution (Pramendra & Vartika, 2011).
Effects of noise pollution
Long-term exposure to noise pollution has adverse health effects in human, including higher risks of hypertension, hearing impairments, heart disorders, heightened risks of diabetes, depression, fatigue, lack of concentration, memory lapses, and miscarriages during pregnancy among other health issues (Pramendra & Vartika, 2011).
It is worth noting that noise pollution also has adverse effects on other organisms in the ecosystem other than human beings. For instance, high levels of noise can damage animals’ nervous systems and affect normal plants’ growth and development (Pramendra & Vartika, 2011).
Mitigating and reducing the effects of noise
It is evident that noise can be extremely harmful to the ecosystem. As such, the following are some of the techniques that should be adopted in mitigation of noise pollution.
- Proper urban planning.
- Planting of trees in buffer zones.
- Educating the public.
- Regulating noises from entertainment industries.
- Using protective gears in industries.
- Maintenance and regulation of vehicles.
- Constructing airports and railway stations away from residential buildings.
The soil is a vital aspect of the environment. Soil supports vegetation and, therefore, plays a key role in the ecosystem. However, industrialization and urbanization have adversely affected soil composition, adding some harmful substances and consequently polluting it (Zhao, Ma, Zhu, Tang, & McGrath, 2015).
Major soil pollutants
Common sources of soil pollutants include industrial waste, pesticides, fertilizers, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) among others. Major soil pollutants include lead, copper, nitrogen, and iron among other elements in unstable concentrations (Zhao, Ma, Zhu, Tang, & McGrath, 2015).
Effects of soil pollution
Polluted soils have grave effects on the ecosystem. Soil pollution results in poor plant growth and development. Moreover, polluted soils have major health effects on animals and human beings. For instance, soil polluted by lead have extremely grave effects on human health. Some of the effects of lead can be manifested in many generations of different species, especially human beings (Reyes, Liberda, & Tsuji, 2015).
Mitigating soil pollution
Some of the recommended methods of mitigating soil pollution include:
- Reducing/minimizing the use of contaminating inputs in agriculture.
- Reduction of heavy metal phytoavailability in soil.
- Adoption of appropriate water and fertilizer management.
- Proper treating of waste before disposal.
Environmental pollution is a grave issue that continues to cause concerns in all countries. The current increasingly high levels of pollution can be linked to industrialization and urbanization. The modern industrialization and urbanization have drastically increased demand for goods and services and, therefore, demand and consumption of energy are extremely high.
The increased use of unsafe energy in production has resulted in environmental pollution. Furthermore, a lot of waste is being generated worldwide yet proper treatment and disposal mechanism are rarely adopted. All this are some of the factors that increase the levels of pollution and, therefore, make the world a dangerous place for human beings, animals, plants, and all organisms in general.
Environmental pollution is a global issue and, therefore, it is a major concern in many countries. As such, various international policies, treaties, and conventions have been put in place to deal with pollution. Most countries strive to be compliant with the provisions of the international agreements on mitigation of pollution. Nonetheless, the lack of a powerful body to monitor the implementation of policies leave the decision of environmental conservation to individual countries.
There are four major forms of pollution, including air, water, noise, and soil pollution. All the forms of pollution have specific causes and effects. In addition, there are ways. In which pollution can be mitigated. The most outstanding pollution mitigation techniques include the use of renewable energy, minimizing the use of harmful fertilizers and pesticides, and proper disposal of industrial and domestic waste.
- There should be standardized and internationally recognized definitions of waste and environmental pollution.
- Major producers of hazardous waste and other pollutants should be signatory members of international environmental conservation conventions.
- Recommendations on environmental conservation provided by international conventions and treaties should be implemented.
- There should be a powerful international body to monitor the implementation of environmental conservation policies.
- Stronger deterrents like economic or political sanctions should be applied to countries that violate the provisions of international treaties on environmental conservation.
- Developing countries should be assisted in disposing of some of the industrial waste that they lack the capacities to dispose of in environmentally sound methods.
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