What Is Pollution?
What Does Pollution Mean?
Odds are, you’ve heard the word pollution in a variety of contexts — that’s because there are numerous different kinds of pollution. So before getting into the main types of pollution that harm our environment, it's important to understand exactly what pollution means. Essentially, pollution is when an environment is contaminated with something whose presence negatively affects the natural order of the environment. Pollution typically refers to aspects of nature, ranging from the ocean to the soil to the atmosphere.
What Is Ocean Pollution?
Ocean pollution is when something that does not belong in the ocean enters the ocean — and that's mostly plastic and other trash. Ocean plastic negatively affects marine life and ecosystems — meaning it also negatively affects humans.
Facts About Ocean Pollution
Oceans cover more than 70 percent of the Earth, according to the NRDC — so it’s safe to say that it’s in humans’ best interest to protect them. But according to the Ocean Crusaders, there are 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic debris in the ocean, which is pretty wild, considering plastic was only invented in 1907. That’s not exactly a good example of humans protecting the ocean, is it?
Where Does Ocean Plastic Come From?
Ocean plastic comes from humans. The greatest source of ocean plastic is from fishing nets, which account for about 46 percent of ocean plastic, at least in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, according to a study published in Scientific Reports and as reported by National Geographic. Where does the rest of the ocean's plastic come from? In the study, most of the other ocean plastic found was additional items from the fishing industry, such as ropes, eel traps, and crates, the study added.
The commercial fishing industry employs a process called trawling, which is when a large fishing net is pulled through the ocean, gathering fish as well as accidental “bycatch,” such as dolphins, porpoises, sea turtles, and more. Unfortunately, many fishermen leave their nets and other gear behind in the ocean, causing animals to get tangled in them and die.
The remainder of ocean plastic comes from items human use, such as straws, food packaging, grocery bags, and drink bottles, as well as microplastics that shed from clothing and from plastic items trying to break down. Unfortunately, many sea animals mistake these items for food, and ingesting them can cause death. Additionally, when humans eat fish or shellfish, they are in turn ingesting the microplastics that were in the animal’s body.
How Can I Fight Ocean Pollution?
The best way to reduce your contribution to ocean pollution is by not eating sea animals. You can also use as little single-use plastic as possible, and make steps toward a zero-waste or low-impact lifestyle. Additionally, you can pick up trash whenever possible, especially on beaches, to prevent litter from entering the oceans.
What Are Crude Oil Spills?
Crude oil is unrefined petroleum product and a fossil fuel. It is used for things like gasoline, jet fuel, heating, paraffin wax, tar, and more.
Oil spills are usually accidents, occurring when oil platforms, refineries, tankers, or ships spill crude oil into the ocean, according to a study published by Science Direct. As explained by the NOAA, things like equipment malfunctioning, human error, or natural disasters are often the cause of these accidental spills. But sometimes, cruise ships will purposely dump oil-contaminated waste into the ocean, which can get the cruise companies into serious legal trouble.
When crude oil pollutes the ocean, it in turn pollutes the ocean’s inhabitants. As noted by the NOAA, oil can damage marine mammals’ coats, ruining their insulation or water-repelling capabilities; crude oil is also poisonous, and if a sea animal swallows it, it can be deadly.
How Can Oil Spills Be Cleaned?
According to the NOAA, there a variety of ways to clean up oil spills, including: “sorbent” sponges that absorb oil; “in situ burning,” which burns recently-spilled oil that is floating on the water’s surface; chemicals that break oil down into its chemical components; vacuum trucks; and more.
What Is Air Pollution or Atmospheric Pollution?
Air pollution or atmospheric pollution is when a harmful gas, material, chemical, or particle enters the air. According to National Geographic, some of the most prominent air pollutants are greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane, which are caused by a variety of activities, and which both contribute to the greenhouse effect, and therefore to climate change. Other common atmospheric pollutants include, soot, mold, pollen, asbestos, cigarette smoke, and ozone, National Geographic added.
Why Is Air Pollution Harmful?
As mentioned earlier, greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are a form of pollution because they contribute to climate change. As for the other atmospheric pollutants, many of them can have negative impacts on human health. According to the World Health Organization and National Geographic, ambient air pollution can cause illnesses like strokes, lung cancer, respiratory infections, and heart disease, and in 2016, air pollution was responsible for an estimated 4.2 million deaths globally.
How Can I Reduce Air Pollution?
To contribute to less atmospheric pollution, you can: take measures to conserve energy, such as using energy-efficient light bulbs, appliances, and more; rely on public transportation, walking, or biking instead of driving a car; send less trash to landfills, where garbage emits harmful greenhouse gases; eat less animal products, since livestock emits significant amounts of methane; and use eco-friendly household products such as paints and cleaning products.
What Is Land Pollution?
Land pollution is when land or soil is contaminated by a variety of environmental pollutants. According to the Conservation Institute, the major causes of land pollution are: industrialization, deforestation (which can cause soil erosion), landfills (which pollute the soil and the air), mining, sewage, and agriculture (both the chemicals used on crops and the runoff from animal agriculture).
Why Is Land Pollution Harmful?
Land pollution can lead to a number of harmful consequences on the environment. According to Conserve Energy Future and the Conservation Institute, land pollution can cause: soil erosion; climate change; various negative effects on human health; air pollution; the destruction of animal habitats; a higher risk of wildfires; and more.
How Can I Reduce Land Pollution?
To reduce your contribution to land pollution, you can: reduce your consumption of single-use plastic and try to send less rubbish to landfills; make sure to responsibly dispose of toxic chemicals, such as cleaning products, aerosol cans, and paint; eat less animal products such as meat, dairy, and eggs, since livestock is responsible for significant land pollution and air pollution; eat or grow organic produce when possible (check out the Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 for more information); plant trees; and donate to organizations that plant trees.
Here’s How California’s Largest Lake, the Salton Sea, Came to Be So Toxic
Pollution Independence Day 2021: How to Get Involved and Support the Earth Bill
Avoid These PFAS Chemicals, or "Forever Chemicals" At All Costs
Sea Snot: A Nauseating Nuisance Plaguing Planet Earth's Oceans
Sustainable Shipping Options to Lower Your Small Business' Environmental Impact
Which Bee Species Are Endangered — and How You Can Help
Is Any Type of Plastic Considered Eco-Friendly?
Earth’s Carbon Levels Are Highest Since Measurements Began
How Pollution and Other Environmental Effects Can Affect Human DNA
A Look Into Natural Gas Extraction: Fracking, Horizontal, and Vertical Drilling
DDT Waste Is Still Polluting the Environment, Decades After the U.S. Banned the Insecticide
Scientists Develop New Bioplastic That Is *Actually* Compostable
Fukushima: About the 2011 Nuclear Disaster, Updates, and More
In 2020, U.K. Water Companies Dumped Shocking Amounts of Sewage Into Rivers
Manatee County, Florida's Piney Point Reservoir Is an Environmental Disaster
How to Safely Dispose of Used Antifreeze
Litter Pick-Up Committees: How to Get Involved in Your Community
Why Isn't Black Plastic Recyclable? Here's What You Should Know
Our Planet Is Getting Darker Due to Global Dimming — Here's What That Means
Here's What You Need to Know About Israel's 2021 Oil Spill
What Are Some Ways That Humans Have Improved Climate Change?
How Can One Person Reduce Pollution?
Fossil Fuel Air Pollution Kills 10.2 Million People Every Year, New Research Finds
Here's How Pipelines Directly Affect the Environment, Wildlife, and Human Beings
Exploring How Different Energy Sources Cause Different Forms of Pollution
How to Dispose of Paint Safely
What Is Ocean-Bound Plastic and What Can We Do About It?
Outta Ink? Here’s How to Recycle Your Used Ink Cartridges
Recycling Is Supposed to Change the Planet — Here's Where Our System Is Ineffective
Plastic Pollution Kills Millions of Animals Every Year
Air Pollution Is a Global Problem — What Can We Do to Prevent It?
Acid Rain: What Causes It and How It Affects Human Health
Microplastics Are Littering Our Planet — but Where Do They Come From?
An Estimated 1.5 Billion Masks Have Entered Oceans In 2020
How to Recycle Used Motor Oil Instead of Trashing It
Green Hydrogen: What It Is, Green Hydrogen Companies, and More
How Does Polyester Impact the Environment? Is It Eco-Friendly?
England’s Straw Ban Finally Goes Into Effect — But Is It Just Low-Hanging Fruit?
Maryland Just Became the First State to Ban Foam Takeout Containers
California Bans Sale of Gas-Powered Cars by 2035, Prioritizing EVs Statewide
It's safe to say EV-charging stations will be easier to find than gas stations come 2035.
NASA Took Satellite Images of the West Coast Wildfires From Outer Space — See the Photos
NASA captured satellite images from outer space of the wildfires currently ravaging the West Coast.
Cigarette Butts Are No Longer the No. 1 Littered Item on Beaches
The most recent ICC found that plastic food wrappers has taken the top spot.
So It's Too Late to Clean up the Ocean, Scientists Say — What Happens Now?
Trump’s EPA Is Letting Power Plants Dump Toxic Waste Into Rivers and Streams
Trump’s EPA has rolled back more Obama-era rules, meaning power plants now have more freedom to dump toxic wastewater into natural bodies of water.
The Plastic Industry Is Lobbying to Re-Pollute Africa
A plastic industry lobbying group wants to reverse Kenya's strict plastic bans, and open Africa up to more U.S. plastic trash.
Mountain Valley Pipeline Extension Delayed Due to Environmental Concerns
The Mountain Valley Pipeline Southgate Extension Project has been delayed due to environmental concerns.
Oil Spill Leaves Mauritius in State of Emergency — Here's How You Can Help
An oil spill off the coast of Mauritius has left the tropical island country in a state of emergency.
How Gas Flaring Is Causing Premature Births in Latinx Women
Natural gas flaring could be causing adverse birth outcomes, such as premature births and underweight births, in Hispanic mothers in Texas.
What Is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch?
How the Climate Crisis Is Affecting Childbirth Outcomes, Especially for Black Mothers
Climate change factors such as air pollution and rising temperatures are causing premature, underweight, and still births — especially for black mothers.
How to Organize a Community Cleanup After a Protest
The revolution, unfortunately, can create a lot of litter.
Gloves and Masks Are Already Polluting the Mediterranean Sea — Watch a Diver Clean Up COVID-19's Mess
COVID-19 era PPE has already made its way into the ocean.
The Surprising Ways That Littering Is Bad for the Environment
COVID-19 Changed the World — And Our Planet
COVID-19 has changed just about everything, including our planet.
Scientists Are Using Artificial Intelligence to Detect Ocean Plastic
Researchers are using satellites and artificial intelligence to detect ocean plastic.
EPA Rolls Backs Mercury Regulations, Bailing Out the Fossil Fuel Industry
The Trump administration just weakened mercury pollution regulations for oil and coal power plants.
Himalayas Visible From 100 Miles Away as Air Quality Improves During Coronavirus Lockdowns
India's drastic air quality improvements have cleared up skies, making the Himalayan mountains visible from more than 100 miles away.
EPA Relaxes Environmental Laws for Fossil Fuel Industry Due to Coronavirus
The Environmental Protection Agency is suspending various environmental laws in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
This Is How Air Pollution Impacts the Human Body
Pollution affects everyone and everything — from our environment to animals to humans. It’s not just detrimental to one area of life; it can be dangerous for all of it.
NYC and LA See Drop in Air Pollution During COVID-19
Air pollution levels are significantly falling during the COVID-19 outbreak — but we shouldn't look at this as a silver lining.
How the Coronavirus and Air Quality Are Fueling Each Other
The new coronavirus, or COVID-19, is impacting air quality — and air pollution impacts those sick with the virus as well.
Coronavirus Causes Decline in Air Pollution Across Northern Italy
Northern Italy is experiencing a significant and swift decline in NO2 pollution, as a result of the coronavirus lockdown.
Childhood Asthma in Barcelona Often Due to Air Pollution and Social Inequity, Study Finds
Nearly half of Barcelona's asthma cases can be attributed to air pollution, according to a new study.
Here’s How Fracking Causes Water Pollution
You’ve probably heard a lot about fracking, but there’s still likely a lot you don’t know about it.
China Is Rolling Out Single-Use Plastic Bans
China is banning several kinds of single-use plastic gradually over the next five years.
BTS Wants to Raise Awareness About the Climate Crisis With New Partnership
BTS is joining the fight for a healthy planet and clean air.
Ocean Pollution by Country: See the Worst Offenders
Though some countries are worse than others when it comes to ocean pollution, it’s a problem that affects all of us.
Are Plastic Straws Recyclable?
You don’t have to self-identify as an eco-warrior to know that straws are having a moment right now.
Delhi Air Pollution Levels Reach Record-Breaking Heights in Public Health Emergency
Going outside in Delhi is equivalent to smoking 50 cigarettes in one day.
The Ocean Cleanup Reveals Successful Catch in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch
More than a year after the launch of System 001, The Ocean Cleanup confirms that they’ve been successful in retrieving trash from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
Air Pollution Linked to Psychiatric Disorders Like Depression and Schizophrenia
Could air pollution be a cause of mental health disorders?
How Plastic Straws Affect the Ocean and Sea Turtles
Are plastic straws really that bad?
Why Toxic Blue-Green Algae Blooms Have Killed 4 Dogs This Week
18-Year-Old's Solution to the Microplastic Crisis Wins the Google Science Fair
This could remove 85 percent of microplastics from the ocean.
Bees Can Take Refuge on These Bus Stop "Green Roofs"
The bus stops are also great for biodiversity, absorbing carbon, and more.