When we hear the word ‘pollution’ we always think of plastic, fertilizer or oil spills. While these pollutants cause significant pollution, we must not forget that our industries also dump significant amounts of toxic chemicals and other pollutants into the soil, air and water.
Most of the Earth’s surface is covered with water, and the only sources of fresh and drinkable water are lakes, rivers, ponds and streams. However, they are endangered sources of water as industrial waste slowly but surely enters them. Industrial wastes such as oil, grease, acids, alkalis, dyes, radioactive compounds and pesticides are found in rivers, streams and estuaries. Power plants are notorious for dumping pollutants into water bodies. For example, hot water, a byproduct, is always discharged into nearby water bodies, killing the delicate flora and fauna that live there. Other contaminants commonly seen in water bodies are compounds of polychlorinated biphenyls and lubricants. Some of the pollutants actually dissolve in the water and make their way up the food chain, while others hang or settle at the bottom of the body of water.
Today, oil spills make environmentalists very nervous. The frequency of oil spills has increased, resulting in several marine animals and plants dying each year. Did you know that approximately 1.3 million barrels of oil are spilled into the Persian Gulf each year, and approximately 285 million gallons of oil are spilled into the oceans around the world each year?
In the US, nearly half of nationwide water pollution is attributed to industries. Discharge of wastewater such as asbestos, mercury, lead, sulfuric acid, nitrates and phosphates into water bodies is quite common for industries. This is despite the strict laws that the US has, you can imagine the situation in developing countries. In many developing countries, industrial wastes are not adequately treated before they are discharged into water bodies. Therefore, water pollution in these countries is quite bad. Also, sometimes even in developed countries, small-scale industries are unwilling to spend money on getting the right pollution control measures. So even here water pollution is a problem.
According to researchers, water pollutants cause serious diseases such as cholera, hepatitis, diarrhea, dysentery, and also salmonella. In addition, many of these pollutants are carcinogenic. Some pollutants in water can cause various cardiovascular diseases, and metals such as lead and mercury can cause neurological disorders. Other pollutants such as DDT can cause genetic changes.
As countries are slowly waking up to the potential catastrophe of industrial waste pollution, significant changes in laws and policies still have time to take effect.