When we read or research about pollution, we commonly come across several repeated things about pollution. We have seen students and researchers who are tired with the same old stories. There are many facts that we don’t usually discuss. Let us peep into few uncommon facts regarding pollution.
Pollution is the addition of toxic compounds to the environment affecting the ecosystem and all that lives in it. There are some well-known facts about pollution and some lesser known ones. There are different constituents of the environment mainly air, land, water, light, sound, plants, animals, insects, a variety of life forms and us, human beings.
In the race to adapt to the changing environment, animals and plants make small changes that take generations to manifest in their bodies. But humans are different. We haven’t changed much in the many generations that we have been, but in the race to make life easier we have brought changes in the environment itself. This is pollution.
In this article let us look at some lesser known facts about pollution:
- BPA is a compound that is used to make plastic stronger is a dangerous toxin. It is found in water bottles, CDs DVDs, sports equipment. They line food and beverage cans, water pipes. Did you know the smooth receipt that you receive at the store is coated with BPA plastic to make it more resilient? The poly carbonate water bottle seen in all offices dispensing is made of bisphenol-A filled plastic. And thousands of thousands households use these as a water supply in urban areas.
- Plastic making industries emit BPA in high quantities every year. It is released into the air from these places. Plastics never biodegrade, but as they fragment into smaller pieces BPA is released into the water or soil depending on where the plastic is lying or floating. It is breathed in or ingested and enters the food chain.
- It is an endocrine disruptor. It mimics the estrogen hormone and at the same time it also inhibits the action of the actual hormone. Its use is banned in baby bottles and infant food packaging in the US, EU and Canada. But it needs to be banned from all other food packaging materials too.
- In laboratory animals with acute or sudden large exposure to BPA, organisational changes in the prostate, breasts, mammary glands, body size, brain structure and chemistry and behaviour were seen.
- Humans are faced with chronic toxicity which is continuous over a long period of time. Not enough studies have been done to explore the effects of this yet.
- Other suspected effects of BPA is obesity, thyroid dysfunction, neurological effects such as anxiety, depression, hyperactivity and aggression in children, increased cancer risk testicular and breast, decrease in male fertility and increased miscarriages in females. Babies who were tested with their mothers for BPA levels were also found having more tendencies for decreased lung capacity which is a precursor to asthma.
- Bisphenol is an important pollutant in water and soil. Every group of aquatic organisms studied for toxicity of BPA has shown decreased reproduction and genetic mutations. These include fish, amphibians, reptiles, invertebrates such as molluscs and crustaceans.
Indoor Air Pollution
Indoor pollution is a lesser known danger. Everyone thinks of wearing a mask while walking outside to filter the air. But there are enough toxins inside homes, offices and malls. Every indoor space is air conditioned with insufficient ventilation. Dampened walls with leaking or damaged pipes are hotspots for mildew and mold infestations.
Appliances running on kerosene and gas which is common in low and middle income homes release emissions as toxic as those released from power plants.
In the gym the smell that one associates with smelly socks can actually be an indication of bad air quality. High levels of airborne dust, formaldehyde and carbon dioxide is found in these.
Air pollution is also causing damaging of art indoors and outdoors. An example is the famed Sistine Chapel frescoes. Increased levels of carbon dioxide from the visitors were causing whitening of the frescoes. This was because of the deposit of carbon carbonate and calcium bicarbonate.
80 per cent of the wastes found in the landfills are recyclable. What are the items that can be recycled and must not be thrown away?
- Only 40 per cent of Aluminium soda cans are recycled. Energy used for making brand new cans can be saved by recycling old ones.
- Aluminium foil and bake ware
- Steel and tin cans
- Corrugated cardboard
- Magazines, office paper, newspaper.
- Paper board used for making breakfast cereal boxes and other packaging material.
- Dairy and juice cartons or poly coated paperboard containers
- Glass is recycled after sorting the colours – clear, brown and green. Glass that cannot be recycled is ceramics, heat resistant glass such as Pyrex, mirror or window glass, crystal, light bulbs and cathode ray tubes.
- Plastic pet bottles jars and jugs are recyclable. The key to recycling plastic is to make sure that they are clean when they go into the recycling bin. One dirty product with food waste can contaminate an entire bale of plastic recyclables and send it to the landfill.
- Plastic grocery and produce sacks must be collected separately from other plastic waste.
- Car batteries are most recycled for the lead, plastic and sulphuric acid.
- Household and button batteries- button batteries contain silver and zinc, some have mercury and must be recycled carefully.
- Rechargeable batteries- usually made of nickel- cadmium, lithium ion or nickel-metal- hydride and should be recycled to reclaim valuable compounds and keep toxins out of the environment.
- Bulbs – incandescent bulbs are being phased out as they consume too much energy. Compact fluorescent bulbs (CFL) and Light Emitting Diode bulb (LED) are used more now. The CFL has a small amount of mercury and must not disposed in the trash but only at the right recycling plan designated by the municipality.
- E waste – 100 per cent of a computer is capable of being recycled as it is made of plastic metal and glass. Certain retailers and manufacturers offer recycling programs.
- Office equipment- Printers can be recycled fully. Printer cartridges and inkjet printers must not be placed in the trash as the toner dust contains hazardous materials.
- Televisions- the old Analog TVs must be recycled properly as each set contains upto eight pounds each of lead that was used to protect the viewer from radiation.
- VCRs, printed circuit boards, DVD players, audio equipment, calculators, recording devices and digital clocks contain lead cadmium and mercury. New components can be made out of old ones. Precious and base metals can be recovered.
- Cell phones –fewer than 20 per cent of old cell phones are recycled. Copper, valuables metals and plastics can be recovered. This can save a lot of energy and reduce pollution reducing the mining and other production costs of these metals.
- E waste that cannot be recycled are microwaves, smoke alarms and detectors, fire alarms, thermometers, large appliances like refrigerators, non-decontaminated medical equipment and any appliance with sludge or liquids.
Children’s Health Is Most Affected
Though children make up 10 per cent of the world population, nearly 40 per cent of those affected by any form of pollution are children. The incidence of birth defects, developmental abnormalities, respiratory diseases like asthma, skin diseases is on the increase.
Neurological disturbances such as ADHD, learning disabilities and ADHD are associated with air and plastic pollution. Bio magnification is a phenomenon by which the organisms higher in the food chain accumulate more toxins in their bodies. Humans are at the top of the food chain. Many toxins can cross the placental barrier from mother to child. Studies done on mothers and children have indicated that this happens on a regular basis and the levels of toxins in new-borns are comparable to that of an adult.
The immune system and lungs of children are not fully developed. Increased infant mortality and asthma is associated with severe air pollution. A study found that children living near freeways are twice as likely to have autism as kids who live further away due exposure to pollutants given off by freeway traffic.
Globally 15 million children under the age of five die each year because of the caused by drinking water.
If you were amazed at the amount of information you got from these words, be assured we have only touched the tip of the ice berg. There is so much that we do not know about the causes and effects of the various forms of pollution yet; for the extent of pollution is a fairly recent discovery. The number of studies that are being done on this is very great in number and still more is done to find solutions to the problems. There is still a lot to learn.