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What is Pollution?

Every day we pour or release harmful substances such as poisonous gases, chemicals and garbage into our environment. These harmful substances that end up damaging the environment, are called pollution. Most pollution comes from factories and transportation but as you will see we all contribute to it in many different ways. All pollution is waste. Waste is unwanted or discarded material and when it is released into the environment it becomes pollution. When most people think of waste they think of garbage or trash that is littered all over the land. This type of waste is the one that most people are familiar with and it is commonly called solid waste. But solid waste pollution is not the only type of pollution out there. Can you think of other types? In addition to solid waste there is air pollution, water pollution, soil pollution and even noise pollution. As you will see, if not handled properly, pollution can and has contaminated our air, water, soil and land. Air Pollution Water Pollution Land/Soil Pollution Noise Pollution Pollution Survey

Air Pollution
Every living creature relies on clean air to survive. Air is made up of a mixture of gases, mainly oxygen and nitrogen, with small amounts of carbon dioxide plus water. Air has no colour or smell, except when it is polluted. Dirty air can affect the health of humans, animals, plants and can even damage buildings. Industry and transportation produce most of the air pollution, releasing millions of tons of harmful substances into the environment each year. FACT: as many as 20% of Canadian children suffer from asthma (Asthma Society of Canada).

The burning of fossil fuels (coal and oil) is the source of or generates most of the world's energy. Unfortunately it also generates most of the world's air pollution. That is because when we burn the fossil fuels to produce energy we end up releasing waste in the form of toxic gases. Carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides and sulphur dioxides are some of the most dangerous gases produced during the burning of fossil fuels. Carbon dioxide gases play a big role in the greenhouse effect by trapping heat rather than allowing it to escape into space. It is not just what is released into the air that causes problems; it is also how individual pollutants interact with each other, water and/or sunlight. For example, sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide are both dangerous when they combine with other substances to create problems such as smog and acid rain. Gases are not the only air pollutants that we should be concerned about. Tiny bits of dust, metal, soot and other materials also find their way into the atmosphere from manufacturing plants, construction sites, wood burning stoves and cars. These small particles reduce the quality of the air that we breathe. Also, sometimes rain contains chemicals called acids that can harm the environment including plants and animals living on land and in the water, as well as damage buildings and other manmade structures such as monuments, roads and vehicles. Acids cause so much harm because they can burn into materials. Acid rain forms when sulphur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide (produced by burning fuels)

biodegradable materials such as food waste and a number of other pollutants before the water reaches our waterways. rivers and oceans. Harmful chemicals can enter our rivers and lakes from any number of sources. radioactive waste. a number of different chemicals can enter its waters. Per person. most treatment plants can't remove all of the chemicals that are used in products such as paint thinners or phosphates that are used in many detergents and these substances end up passing right through the sewage treatment plant untreated. These plants will then remove dirt. the wastewater usually goes to sewage treatment plants to be purified. however these spills only represent a small percentage of the total amount of oil that contaminates our water. sewage sludge and other types of hazardous waste on our lands has become one of the most dangerous pollution and waste problem.are released into the air. As a river makes it's way to the ocean. Tankers dump oil into oceans as part of their routine cleaning. However. because of poor storage methods older landfills and underground storage sites may end up leaking hazardous materials into surrounding soils and sometimes groundwater. For example they can seep out of dumpsites or pesticides and fertilizers may drain from farmlands or they may find their way into sewage that is pumped from local towns and cities. However. flush their toilets or do a load of wash. they are soon carried away by tides or the flow of the river and are extremely difficult to remove. When harmful substances such as oil and chemical wastes enter the waterways either through accidents or through being intentionally dumped. The more garbage we produce the more resources and space we will need to dispose of it. Acid rain falls to the ground and is taken up by tree roots. Not only should we be concerned about the leaking of these wastes but we should also be concerned about the amount of waste that is being disposed of in these landfill sites. The acid rain will also affect the plants and animals living in rivers and lakes. In most areas these storm drains empty into underground pipes that will eventually dump directly into our lakes. eventually causing the trees to die. . Nobody wants to live next to a dumpsite but what do we do with all that garbage? We can learn to reduce the amount of garbage that we create. chemicals. Most of this hazardous waste is sent to landfill sites or burned in incinerators which in turn create toxic runoff and air pollution. These events receive lots of attention on television and from environmental groups. You may think that we have lots of water but only a small amount of it is freshwater that we can use and we are polluting our water in the same way we are polluting our air. refineries pump oily wastewater into surface water and oil from city streets are washed into storm drains that eventually enter our waterways. Top of page Water Pollution In addition to clean air. These two gases mix with water to form a weak acid which falls as rain. all animals and plants need a clean water supply in order to survive. Canadians throw away more garbage than any other country. factories and transportation. One of the most damaging forms of water pollution is from oil. This is a problem because we are running out of places to locate landfill sites. In the past this hazardous waste has also been buried deep underground. When people rinse materials down the drain. The gases that cause acid rain are released by power plants. Top of page Land/Soil Pollution Disposing of acids. This results in contaminated lands that pose a threat to people living in the area as well as to wildlife and the environment. Other sources of water pollution include the dirt and litter from the streets that are washed into storm drains. Oil spills from ships and oil tankers at sea cause devastating water pollution and harm wildlife. pesticides.

horns. reused or composted. Noise can cause damage to our hearing and lead to other health problems. Even loud music is a form of noise pollution. When these vehicles. We don't think of noise as being able to hurt us but it does. Top of page Noise Pollution Modern towns and cities are noisy. . All of these materials can and should be kept out of our landfills. If you add up all these numbers. Within these cities there is a constant rumble from cars. Other people have to work in noisy factories. Over 38% of all materials a landfill is paper. over 87% of what makes up a landfill site could have been recycled. about 15% of the material disposed of in dumps are food and yard waste.Even more disturbing is what we are actually throwing out and sending to these dumpsites. The next highest is metal. cutting down more trees to make more paper). glass and plastics at 34%. There is more paper than any other material found in landfills. machines. especially if you are exposed to loud noises for long periods of time. make loud and continuing sounds they are producing noise pollution. Some communities are also located in noisy areas such as airports or near a train track/station. radios. heavy machinery. trucks. alarms and sirens.e. But instead we are polluting our land by throwing them away as garbage and using up our natural resources unnecessarily (i. buses. Finally.