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"I do wonder whether there will come a time when we can no longer

afford our wastefulness - chemical wastes in rivers, metal wastes


everywhere, and atomic wastes buried deep in the earth or sunk in
the sea."
- John Steinbeck

"In an era when a chemical spill can kill thousands, when


wastes buried 20 years earlier can contaminate community water
supplies, when our environmental ignorance can plant the seeds
for later diseases, environmentalists and industrialists cannot
continue to draw false battlelines."

Pollution is the action of environmental contamination with man-


made waste. (Marriam-Webster) This includes mainly land, water,
and air. Pollution can come in various forms including the
lesser-known noise, light, and thermal pollution. Of all the
First World countries, the United States is the most polluting
nation on Earth, according to various statistical indications.
The U.S. is ranked seventh on pollution control, by only spending
60% of its Gross National Product to help the environment. (Where
We Stand) We spend over 120 billions dollars a year on pollution
control and abatement, regulation and monitoring, and research
and development. The majority of the cost incurred is from
control and abatement of pollution. (IEA) According to the
Council on Eviromental Quality, our country consumed over 98
quadrillion Btu of energy in 2000. Our own residential
consumption of energy in various forms has increase 300% since
1950. Some of this consumption increase is due to burning of
fossil fuels, a natural resource. Why do you think the depletion
of natural resources and the consumption of energy is related to
pollution?
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Water pollution is the action of environmental contamination with


man-made waste into water. The source of this waste could be raw
sewage, chemicals, trash, or fertilizer. Water polltuion has
severe human consequences, since less than 3% of the Earth
contains water that is potable or safe for drinking. (Dubay et
al) Also, water is so important for human survival because we
cannot live without it. When a source for drinking water becomes
cantaminated with untreated sewage it is possible to spread
diseases through the water like Giardiasis, a diarrheal disease
caused by a parasitic protazoa, Giardia lamblia. (Kaufman and
Franz) These types of diseases can also be caused by bacteria,
viruses, and other microorganisms. Another type of water
pollution usually occurs when water is contaminted with
fertilizer. The water is then nitrified and phosphorolized by the
fertilizer chemicals. These added nutrients in the water can
cause eutrophication or the process of changing of a body water
due to excessive plant nutrients. This eutrophication promotes
excessive growth of algae and aquatic plants, which then chokes
the open-water areas, thus decreasing the amount of oxygen
available in the water. (Dubay et al) Consequently, fish and
other organism may die off due to the lack of oxygen. Other types
of water polltion include trash that is dumped into a body of
water or chemicals that seep or are dumped into a body of water.
These two types of water pollution can have harmful side effects
for humans and different organisms.

Air pollution is the action of environmental contamination with


man-made waste into the air. The air we breathe is composed of a
mixture of gases: 78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen, and a small
percentage of other gases like argon, carbon dioxide, and water
vapor. (Kaufman and Franz) The Earth's air also contains
pollutants or harmful material, we may also breathe. Some of
these air pollutants may be odorless and colorless. Other air
pollution may be so apparent that it surrounds us like smog,
which is a cloud or haze of air pollution. Many times you can see
smog hanging over the tall skyscrapers in urban areas. Why do you
think cities are more likely to have smog than suburban or rural
areas? Cities have a tendency to have greater portion of
industrialized areas. Industry is the main contributor to air
pollution. Many times factories release greenhouse gases like
carbon dioxide, chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), methane, and nitrous
oxide into the atmosphere. (Kaufman and Franz) Greenhouse gases
contribute to a phenomenon called the greenhouse effect or more
simply put, global warming. These greenhouse gases trap heat
within the atmoshpere, thus raising the temperture of the Earth.
There also other harmful gases the are released when fossil fuels
are burned. These gases have significant negative health and
environmental effects. These are following gases that are known
as the "Big Six" air pollutants":

# Carbon Dioxide
# Carbon Monoxide
# Sulfur Oxide
# Nitrogen Oxide
# Hydrocarbons (Benzene, Terpene, etc.)
# Particulates

Below are recently released images from the Terra Satellite from
9th of July, 2001. (NASA) Move your cursor onto the image of the
globe and you can see areas of air pollution and how polluted air
moves. The red areas depict locations with higher pollution. The
specific air pollutant that is being tracked in carbon monoxide.
Which areas contain the most red? Why do you think these area are
more red than the others? What could be the causes?
The above gases that we have been discussing are primary
pollutants because they directly affect the environment. However,
there are other gases that are consider sencondary pollutants
because they react with other chemicals and then become harmful
to the environment. Some examples of these are sulfur and
nitrogen oxide, which can react with water to form acid rain in
the atmosphere. Below is an illustration of this process. This is
an example of how air pollution can also result in water
pollution.