What is Pollution?

“Pollution”, a word that concerns most people when they hear about it but is something which is a part of everyday life. Pollution occurs when something that doesn’t naturally belong in an ecosystem is forcibly introduced into it. The foreign substance introduced into the environment which causes the pollution is called as a ‘Pollutant’. As the concentration of a pollutant increases in the environment the intensity of pollution also increases. Pollution is mostly caused by human actions but also caused by natural disasters. It is highly detrimental to all living things on our planet. Pollution (read about different types of pollution) although reaching its critical point, is being ignored around the world.



Air Pollution (Image source: morgueFile.com)

Pollution of the environment started off as early as the Stone Age when fire was invented. Archaeologists have found the soot left from fires on the ceilings of the caves. But this was not serious as it hardly affected the surrounding ecosystem. Later in the 13th century people started to realize that the amount of smoke surrounding them was increasing. It was first then that the people acknowledged pollution in the environment.


What causes Pollution?

Pollution is mostly accounted by human ignorance. Small actions of ours which we don’t even realize at the time cause the contamination of our atmosphere.

  • Exhaust smoke coming out of our vehicles raise the level of poisonous gases in the atmosphere, so during long traffic halts we often avoid switching off the engine which increases the poisonous gases when it can be avoided.
  • Farmers spray insecticides and pesticides on the crops which sucks the fertility out of the soil. Instead cheaper and environment friendly efforts can be made to avoid these harmful chemicals.
  • Industries release lots of toxic waste into the environment such as smoke into the air, contaminated by-products into rivers and streams and many other ways which should be avoided.
  • Certain people in the slum areas wash clothes and utensils near lakes and rivers which contaminate the water bodies by the detergents which act as nutrition for the growth of certain algae. This growth of the algae forms a layer on top of the water which blocks sunlight to the underwater aquatic beings and reduces the amount of oxygen causing hazardous living conditions for the beings below the water. This effect is called “Eutrophication”.
  • Air conditioners and refrigerators release certain gases called ‘Choloro-Flouro-Carbons’ into the atmosphere which are extremely detrimental to the atmospheric shell of the Earth called the ‘ozone layer’, which is covered in the latter part of the article.
  • Low micron plastics used as carry bags and in wrappers are near to indestructible and take thousands of years to decompose. These plastics are dumped into the land whichacts as barriers which prevent the passage of water into the soil.


Effects of Pollution:

Now that we’ve seen some of the common causes of pollution, let us take a glance at two of the major after effects of pollution.


1. Global Warming:

Carbon dioxide released by exhausts of vehicles and industries form a layer which prevents heat from escaping the atmosphere. This causes an excessive amount of heat to settle in the atmosphere causing a rise in the temperature. This effect is also referred to as the “Green-House effect”. Certain other poisonous gases like carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide, methane also cause this effect along with carbon dioxide cause this effect. Hence these gases are collectively called “Green House gases”.


Due to Global warming a great amount of temperature is caused in the atmosphere. The temperatures at the polar ice caps are increasing which is causing the ice to melt and raise the water levels. A temperature rise in the ocean is also causing disruptions in the ocean currents and temperature distribution among the continents which are leading to constant hurricanes and tsunamis.


Efforts are being made to control the already serious problem of global warming. Catalytic converters are being used in vehicles to convert the poisonous gases into less poisonous natural gases. Industries are using lesser polluting methods for manufacturing goods and also use catalytic converters.


2. Depletion of the Ozone Layer:

Ozone is a chemical compound which comprises three oxygen atoms bound together. It forms the outermost layer of the earth’s atmosphere and protects the earth from dangerous Ultra Violet rays from the sun. These UV rays have high penetrating power and are capable of causing cancer.


As discussed earlier the CFCs (CholoroFlouro Carbons) released from air conditioners and refrigerators rise into the atmosphere and react rapidly with the ozone layer causing its depletion. Due to this depletion the earth is more exposed to harmful Ultra Violet rays and solar flares. High exposure to ultra violet rays causes genetic mutation and degenerative diseases.


Currently quite a large area of the ozone layer has already been depleted because of high CFC levels in the atmosphere. A hole the size of Mexico has been noticed to exist on the ozone layer. If this continues to happen at the current rate the ozone layer will disappear leaving the earth to become a lifeless planet.


Currently Air conditioners and refrigerators are being manufactured to degenerate the discharge of CFCs. Ozone can be produced when lightning strikes nitrogenous compounds present in the soil. Using this theory lightning rods are being installed in homes which run into the soil in lightning prone areas.


What can be done?

Proper waste disposal and conservative management of our resources could save our environment. Switching off vehicles during a long halt, reusing plastics instead of littering them, using air conditioners and refrigerators that are CFC free, prevent the use of detergents and soaps in lakes and rivers, recycle paper and packaging materials and so on.


It is from the environment we were raised, it gave us life. It is time for us to give it back what it has given us, “A chance to live.”