Pollutants Definition and Types
Environmental pollutants are substances disrupting natural processes. They include biodegradable organics, persistent organic pollutants (POPs), heavy metals, and nuclear waste. Each category poses unique challenges and requires different management strategies.
Microplastics: Tiny, Pervasive Killers
Microplastics, often invisible, pollute oceans globally. They enter food chains, absorbing toxins that can harm wildlife and humans. Microplastics originate from larger plastic waste, beauty products, and synthetic fibers, with effects still being researched.
POPs: Long-lasting Chemical Threats
Persistent Organic Pollutants resist environmental degradation. Found in pesticides like DDT, industrial chemicals, and byproducts, POPs accumulate in fatty tissues, leading to cancer, birth defects, and immune system damage. The Stockholm Convention aims to eliminate or reduce them.
Pharmaceuticals Disrupt Aquatic Life
Pharmaceuticals in waterways, a less-known hazard, affect aquatic species' behavior, reproduction, and growth. Drugs enter ecosystems through human waste and improper disposal, with current sewage treatments unable to fully remove them.
E-Waste: Tech's Toxic Legacy
Electronic waste, or e-waste, is the fastest-growing pollutant type. It contains harmful substances like lead, mercury, and arsenic. Improper disposal leads to soil and water contamination, affecting human health and ecosystems.
Air Pollution's Invisible Menace
Nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds contribute to ozone layer depletion and smog formation. Airborne particulate matter, less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter, penetrates deep into lungs, causing respiratory issues and cardiovascular diseases.
Climate Change and Pollutants
Greenhouse gases, a form of pollution, are accelerating climate change. Methane, released from landfills and agriculture, traps 28 times more heat than CO2 over 100 years. Reducing methane emissions is crucial for mitigating climate change impacts.