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Environmental Pollution1 in the Context of Industrial Revolution

A. Definitions

Environmental pollution is “the contamination of the physical and biological
components of the earth/atmosphere system to such an extent that normal
environmental processes are adversely affected”. (Ref. 2)

“Pollution is the introduction of contaminants into the environment that cause
harm or discomfort to humans or other living organisms, or that damage the
environment” which can come “in the form of chemical substances, or energy
such as noise, heat or light”. “Pollutants can be naturally occurring substances
or energies, but are considered contaminants when in excess of natural
levels.” (Ref. 3)

Pollution is “the addition of any substance or form of energy (e.g., heat, sound,
radioactivity) to the environment at a rate faster than the environment can
accommodate it by dispersion, breakdown, recycling, or storage in some harmless
form”. (Ref. 4)

B. Introduction to Environmental Pollution

Although pollution had been known to exist for a very long time (at least since
people started using fire thousands of years ago), it had seen the growth of
truly global proportions only since the onset of the industrial revolution during
the 19th century.

Environmental Pollution
England, 19th Century
Courtesy: Wikimedia.org

At the same time. Environmental pollution is a problem both in developed and developing countries.e. (Ref. Environmental Pollutants: What are they and how Do They Decompose? Environmental pollutants are constituent parts of the pollution process. there were around 65. They come in gaseous. potential environmental pollutants that were to be released into air. water. They are the actual “executing agents” of environmental pollution. with all the waste from this exploitation going straight in to the environment (air. i. water and land on a regular basis. 9): .The industrial revolution brought with it technological progress such as discovery of oil and its virtually universal use throughout different industries. Technological progress facilitated by super efficiency of capitalist business practices (division of labour – cheaper production costs – overproduction – overconsumption – over pollution) had probably become one of the main causes of serious deterioration of natural resources. as of 1990.000 different chemicals in the marketplace. development of natural sciences led to the better understanding of negative effects produced by pollution on the environment. 8) Renowned author Miguel A. of course. It is interesting to note that. And overuse of natural resources often results in nature’s degradation. Santos identifies at least three general characteristics of environmental pollutants(Ref. solid or liquid form. It’s interesting to note that natural resources had been stored virtually untouched in the Earth for millions of years (example seedbank in the Arctic Region). It has been argued that the carrying capacity of Earth is significantly smaller than the demands placed on it by large numbers of human populations. land) and seriously damaging its natural processes. But since the start of the industrial revolution vast amounts of these resources had been exploited within a period of just a couple of hundred of years at unimaginable rates. C. Factors such as population growth and urbanization invariably place greater demands on the planet and stretch the use of natural resources to the maximum.

These points emphasize that pollutants present a serious long- term global problem that affects more or less every country and. In order to develop and implement an effective international policy for pollutants’ management. they are transboundary.de  Pollutants don't recognize boundaries. Biological Decomposition of Environmental Pollutants Santos divides environmental pollutants into biodegradable and non- biodegradable ones. and  They destroy biota and habitat.e. among other factors. Beach pollution in Malaysia which travels from China © epSos. therefore. to understand their decomposition mechanisms. i. We know that decomposition of pollutants can occur either biologically or physico-chemically. and describes them as follows: . can only be solved by a coordinated set of actions and unwavering commitment of nations to international environmental agreements. it is important.  Many of them can't be degraded by living organisms and therefore stay in the ecosphere for many years.

phosphates. proteins etc. However. if a pollutant is organic. biodegradable pollutants are only “temporary nuisances” that can be neutralised and converted into harmless compounds. Therefore. it can be used by a living organism to obtain energy and other material from carbohydrates. thus exceeding the natural capacity of the environment to “assimilate” them. . For example. it is important to remember that they can become serious pollutants if released in large amounts in small areas.Biodegradable Pollutants Fruit peel is biodegradable © Fotoos Van Robin Biodegradable pollutants are the ones that can be broken down and processed byliving organisms. including organic waste products. and inorganic salts.

metal.html . fat soluble (but not water soluble) non-biodegradable pollutants. are not excreted with urine but are accumulated in the fat of living organisms and cannot be metabolised. Main Reference: http://www. water and climate to work together to achieve neutralisation of pollutants. some pesticides and herbicides.com/Environmental- Pollution. Some of the most dangerous pollutants such as radioactive isotopes can decompose by themselves but it will take thousands of years. Non-Biodegradable Pollutants Plastic may look beautiful but it is not biodegradable © Nolte Lourens Non-biodegradable pollutants are the ones that cannot be decomposed by living organisms and therefore persist in the ecosphere for extremely long periods of time. In addition to that. Non-Biological Decomposition of Environmental Pollutants (Ref. ex. glass.tropical-rainforest-animals. and radioactive isotopes. mercury and some hydrocarbons. such as wind. They include plastics. 12) Non-biological decomposition of non-biodegradable pollutants requires a combination of many factors.

D. (March 16. Retrieved December 23. 2011 from: http://www.1.britannica. The Free Encyclopedia.php? title=Pollution&oldid=198701164 4. (2011). In Encyclopedia Britannica. Kemp. (1998). 2014 from http://www.com/EBchecked/topic/468070/pollution . p.wikipedia.org/w/index. Jaguar Animal. Retrieved April 3. 2008 from http://en.html Other References: 2.com/Jaguar- Animal. D. Retrieved December 10. Retrieved December 23.tropical-rainforest-animals. I. The Environment Dictionary.com. Pollution. 2008). Gray. 2011 from Questia. In Wikipedia. London: Routledge . (2011).com 3. In Tropical-Rainforest-Animals. Pollution. 129.