Pollution in Ecology: Definition, Types of Pollution, Causes, Effects and Solutions

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Photo of Pollution: Definition, Types of Pollution, Causes, Effects and Solutions

Pollution Meaning

Pollution is simply defined as the release of substances into the environment in quantities that are harmful to man and animals health. These substances released are called pollutants, they may be human-made or naturally occurring.

Some examples of substances released into the environment include waste products of industries, refuse and even human waste. Harm occurs when the receiving environment cannot easily assimilate the type or quantity of substance released. Pollution may be described by its medium (for instance air or water pollution), its character (example. noise pollution and acid rain) or its source (example. industrial pollution)

. However, this may be regarded by some people as an accident or as the deliberate and inevitable consequences of production processes. Pollution has caused great harm to our natural environment, and acid rain and air pollution have seriously harmed both man and animals currently in diverse ways.

Pollution, in the air, water and land (freshwater, oceans, and seas) is one of the major problems confronting all living organisms in ecology. In some areas it has led to serious competition over scarce resources which in turn results to social and environmental conflicts. These then pose a risk to the lifestyles of all who reside in such locations.

The effects of pollution range from aesthetic nuisance through to economic loss, health damage, death and long-term environmental degradation. The release of pollution may be sudden, or it may involve a slow accumulation of substances over a long period of time, such as the concentration of heavy metals, herbicides and pesticides in the environment. The impacts of pollution may also be sudden or may involve a gradual process. The impact may be short-lived or exist for a long time. It may be local, widely dispersed or far from the source of pollution.

Types of Pollution

  1. Water pollution
  2. Land pollution
  3. Air pollution
  4. Noise pollution

Water pollution

Water pollution can be defined as the release of pollutants into various water bodies such as ocean, seas, rivers, lakes, streams and springs depleting water quality and making it unfit for human consumption and the environmental use. There are many ways in which water ispolluted. Chemical pollution generated by the nitrates and phosphates of pesticides, human and animal drugs, household products, heavy metals, acids and hydrocarbons used in industries are some of the examples of contaminants that destroys the quality of water.

Increasingly, efforts are being made to close the circle by using former wastes from processes as inputs into new production processes, in what is known as industrial ecology. Regulations are enforced to prevent the deliberate emission of pollution that is considered unacceptable.

Causes of water pollution

  • Oil spills usually occur in low land or riverine areas, where there is lack of safety management, this in turn increased environmental damage during oil exploration and development.
  • Floods and natural runoff can carry pollutants from the land or urban areas into the rivers and streams that are used by human communities.
  • Chemicals discharges from the various industries is also another cause of water pollution.
  • Discharge of effluents from ships at various harbor is also a common cause.
  • The discharge of domestic waste such as plastic, paper, aluminum, food, glass, or rubber into various water bodies.
  • The use of agro-chemicals such as fertilizers into water bodies- serious water pollution exist due to the heavy use of chemicals in the agricultural sector.

Effects of water pollution

  • Water pollution can lead to the destruction of aquatic animals and plants.
  • It causes water bone diseases.
  • Chemicals released from various industries are mostly drawn to rivers, seas and lakes; once the water dried up in the sea, the winds carry the build up of chemicals and salt from the dry seabed over the land, causing serious health-related problems on the nearby human population.
  • Toxic chemicals released into the sea destroy habitats and the local economy. The fishing industry, which once create employment opportunities has been devastated. However, the remaining portion of the sea has a rising salt content that is contributing to the decline of the fish population.
  • It leads to lack of good water for domestic and industrial purposes.
  • It leads to possible migration of people from the affected areas, thereby causing rapid urban growth and congestion on the available resources.

Solution to water pollution

  • Public enlightenment campaign on the dangers of water pollution should be carried out to create awareness among the people.
  • Certain bodies should be set up to discourage the use of chemicals for fishing in small and large water bodies.
  • Government should set up laws against waste discharge in water bodies.
  • Landscaping should be encourage in every home if possible to reduce the level of run-offandapplication of pesticides and herbicides should be avoided by all means
  • To improve the quality of water, more treatment plants should be built and old rusty pipes should be replaced.
  • There should be provision of pipe borne water for the public.
  • Humans should reduce the rate at which they use plastic,plastic, paper, aluminum, food, glass can be recycled wherenecessary.
  • Proper treatment of industrial waste should be considered.
  • Control of pipelines in drilling areas, ships and chemical discharges.
  • Effective erosion control should be taken into consideration.
Water pollution:This picture shows the obvious effect of oil spillage on water body
Water pollution:This picture shows the obvious effect of oil spillage on water body

Land pollution

Land pollution is defined as the destruction and contamination of the land through the deposition of solid or liquid waste materials on land by humans. This action has a direct or indirect threats on the soil and underground water with a lot of negative impact on public health. The land can be polluted through the following processes:soil

  • Through the dumping of toxic waste, as in case of Koko near Sapele in delta State
  • Through the dumping refuse and sewage wastes.
  • Through mining activities which leads to land degradation and loss of biodiversity.
  • The incessant burning of bush reduces the land and its natural vegetation to new lease of vegetation which gives way for desert encroachment.
  • The land can be polluted through oil-spillage as seen in oil producing areas of the world.
  • Through the use of pesticides, fertilizers and dumping of metal scraps which damage the natural soil, thus leaving a degraded land.

Effects of land pollution

  • It may lead to the destruction of microorganisms present in the soil.
  • Most of the pollutant are very dangerous to man and other living organisms.
  • Land pollution through mining activities can lead to soil contamination, air pollution, surface and ground water pollution by chemicals from mining processes.
  • Land pollution exposes the soil to running water, and other physical contaminations which may in turn affect the soil fertility, once the essential nutrients are removed from the soil, it is rendered useless and unable to support plant growth.
  • It may lead to soil erosion- soil erosion has rendered millions of acres of land unusable and highly unproductive in many parts of the world.
  • Land pollution does not only affect animals and microorganisms but has a huge impact on humans; some of the negative impacts include birth defects, the development of breathing disorders, skin diseases, and cancer. Most of these diseases surface after exposure to waste from water poisoning and soil contamination.

Solutions to land pollution

Land pollution can be controlled through the following processes

  • Enacting of law to check illegal dumping of dangerous substances on land.
  • So many microbes prefer to live in healthy soil; these microbes produce amino acids, which plants convert to protein. If the soil is not conserved, these precious microbes are lost from the soil through heavy and continuous running water.
  • The introduction of incinerator to get rid of refuse
  • Proper sewage disposal should be encouraged.
  • Healthy land produce rich soil which contributes to the healthiness of the environment and other living creatures around it, a healthy soil promotes healthy plant growth and also contribute to the increase yield of plants. However, increase awareness on health, hygiene and ills of land pollution should be encouraged.
  • There should be proper monitoring of the various oil pipelines to check oil spillage.
Picture of how land is polluted through the dumping of solid waste
Picture of how land is polluted through the dumping of solid waste

Air Pollution

Air pollution is defined as the released of gaseous and solid substances in the atmosphere that have damaging effect on humans and other living and non-living things in the environment. Air pollution is often caused by burning fossil fuels such as gasoline and natural gas; this process dimmed the sun and caused serious health problems. Some regions of the world lack good air quality which is mostly caused by industrial and vehicle pollution. Air pollution has become a major concern for the people living in urban areas where there is so much congestion. However, there is high increase of asthma, and other respiratory and neurological problems. These problems are very common among children since they spend most of their time outdoors playing, especially during the time of day when pollution levels have reached their highest. Air pollution is severe at times in the larger cities where there is high population increase, this has also contributed to higher levels of acid rain.

Causes of air pollution

Exploitation of resources and the heavy utilization of the environment.

  • Discharge of toxic substance such as smoke and dust into the atmosphere from industries, machines and mining centers.
  • Fumes from industrial processes such as sulphuric acid, from coal and cement factories
  • The spraying of liquid and gaseous herbicides and pesticides.
  • Burning of fossil fuels which leads to air pollution like acid rain.

Effects of air pollution

  • Air pollution may cause suffocation and reddening of the eyes.
  • Sulphure dioxide contributes to the formation of haze as well as acid rain, which changes the pH balance of waterways and damages foliage, buildings, and monuments.
  • Nitrogen oxides interferes with the ability of certain plants to respire, leading to increased susceptibility to other environmental stressors (for instance, disease, harsh weather)
  • It may cause various respiratory diseases such as lungs irritation and inflammation of breathing passages.
  • Carbon monoxide from automobile, smoke and industrial emission can lead to breathing difficulties, especially for people with asthma and common heart diseases.
  • Air pollution may cause vision problems and reduce physical and mental capabilities in healthy people if not prevented.
  • It may bring about greenhouse effect:These gases act like a blanket that traps in heat emitted by the Earth. As this heat cannot escape into outer space, the atmosphere warms up leading to warmer temperatures, a rising sea levels, more extreme weather, heat-related deaths, and increasing transmission of infectious diseases like Lyme.

Air pollution solutions

  • Air pollution can be controlled by using absorbers to reduce pollutants from waste gasses
  • It can be control by the total removal of industries from residential areas.
  • Reduction of the amount of compounds in the atmosphere to allow more sunlight penetrate and warm the Earth.
  • Government should impose fine to protect the environment such as littering and emission of excessive exhaust fumes.
  • People should limit the use of vehicles and flight as this is already taking effect in some developed countries like Mexico.
  • Increase awareness of health, hygiene and ills of air pollution.
  • Channelization of fume chambers to check chemical waste.
Air pollution caused by discharge of fumes from industrial processes
Air pollution caused by discharge of fumes from industrial processes

Noise pollution

Noise pollution is the release of unwanted, excessive and irritating sound into the atmosphere that can cause serious harm to human activities and the environment as a whole. These sounds often come from heavy industries, construction sites, railway, airplane traffic and highways.

Effects of noise pollution

  • Noise pollution can cause a long lasting harm to the ears, but this mostly depends on the duration and intensity of the sound release per time.
  • A single exposure to an extreme rock blast, explosion or bomb blast may lead to permanent loss of hearing.
  • Noise pollution may result to cardiac arrest among the elderly folks, the World Health Organization also states that children are mostly vulnerable to noise, and the effects that noise has on children may be permanent and in some cases, the child’s physical and psychological health may be altered. In some cases, noise pollution can interfere with a child’s learning and behavior negatively.
  • Noise pollution affects both health and behavior of man and animals. Noise pollution can damage physiological health and results to hypertension, high stress levels,tinnitus, hearing loss, sleep disturbances, and other harmful effects on humans.
  • High noise levels can contribute to cardiovascular effects in humans and an increased incidence of coronary artery disease.

Noise pollution solution

  • Noise from roadways and other urban centers can be mitigated by urban planning and better design of roads.
  • Noise is more than just a nuisance as it can produce serious psychological stress, in this case, the law should banned people from playing of music on loud speakers.
  • Highway noise can be reduced by the use of noise barriers, limitation of vehicle speeds, alteration of roadway surface texture, limitation of heavy vehicles, use of traffic controls that smooth vehicle flow to reduce braking and acceleration and tire design.
  • Piling work should be done in daylight at certain hours and tree planting as a noise buffer in the expressway should be encourage in cities.
  • An individual has a role to play too by staying away from a noisy environment and if you must stay round an area where loud sounds are release, hearing protections such as ear plugs or ear muffs can be used to protect the ears from damages