Air and Water Pollutants
Carbon Monoxide (CO)
Carbon Monoxide (CO) is a byproduct of incomplete fuel combustion. The gaseous substance is both colorless and odorless, and since it is a byproduct of fuel combustion, it primarily comes from mobile vehicles (EPA, 2012a). According to Jorgenson and Johnsen (1981), the incomplete combustion of one liter of gasoline from motor vehicles results to two hundred liters of CO. CO is a primary air pollutant, because the substance enters the environment or the atmosphere in its original form and directly from its source. Hence, the colorless and odorless gas, which comes from the incomplete combustion of natural gases, coal, wood, or tobacco, directly enters the atmosphere in its natural form.
Although CO itself is not dangerous and has little effect on flora and fauna (McKinney, Schoch, & Yonavjak, 2007), high levels of the substance pose health risks to human beings, because it reduces that amount of oxygen that travels through the body. Moreover, it paralyzes the capacity of the body to pump oxygen into major organs such as the heart (EPA, 2012b). CO “combines with the iron of [cytochrome oxidases], preventing its utilization and inhibiting its role of activator of molecular oxygen”, which then results to the blockage of “cellular oxidation processes” in the body (Bour & Ledingham, 1967, p. 3).
CO occurs abundantly in the lower atmosphere thus influencing the quality of air. Like carbon dioxide (CO2), another pollutant, CO contributes to the formation of ground level ozone (O3) in the troposphere because of its reaction with other gases in the lower and upper atmosphere. Since CO is an abundant gas in the atmosphere, its reaction with other substances leads to the increased production of CO2. Moreover, the gas present in the troposphere leads to the greenhouse effect, such that CO and other substances trap heat or infrared radiation in the atmosphere (Johansen, 2009).
Ground Level Ozone (O3)
Ground Level Ozone (O3) is a major air pollutant that affects air quality all over the world but mostly in North America. O3 is a secondary pollutant, because it results from the reaction of primary pollutants in the atmosphere. The reaction of CO, for instance, with other primary pollutants leads to the production of CO2 and O3. O3 is a pollutant that traps higher-energy radiation and ultraviolet rays in the atmosphere. The stratosphere is meant to prevent high radiation from entering and damaging the environment, but O3 traps radiation and heat rays contributing to global warming (Gaan, 2008). Consequently, global warming, due to the presence of greenhouse gases like O3 in the atmosphere, leads to climate change, because the continuous warming of the atmosphere leads to increased temperature. Significant warm temperature also melts polar ice caps thus changing the sea level and ocean temperature. When water rises in the atmosphere the change in temperature leads to changes in humidity and tropospheric temperature (Shah, 2012).
Air pollutants like O3 pose health risks to human beings. Based on research, O3 is the primary cause of respiratory illnesses in the United States and Canada (Watson, Zinyowera, & Moss, 1997). Moreover, it is a “strong pulmonary irritant causing coughing, eye, nose and throat irritation and headaches” (Watt, Tidblad, Kucera, & Hamilton, p. 23). Greenhouse gases also disrupt animal and plant life. Since greenhouse gases help modulate heat in the atmosphere to make earth habitable to humans, plants, and animals, the excess of pollutants and greenhouse gases like O3 leads to global warming and thus affects the capacity of plants or vegetation to thrive. Consequently, animals lose their primary source of food. O3 also disrupts the capacity of plants to synthesize food and the respiration of animals.
Industrial Solid Wastes
Industrial solid wastes are primarily water pollutants that occur in different forms, but industrial wastes are the most dangerous forms. “Certain industrial waste products are especially hazardous because of their toxicity, corrosiveness or flammability” (McKenzie, Pinger, & Kotecki, 2005). Industrial solid wastes pollute water sources when storage tanks leak into land and water sources. Major industrial solid waste pollutants include fertilizers and chemicals from products such as paint, metals, and leather (Misra, 2007). Industrial solid wastes disrupt aquatic life, because water contamination leads to the death of marine plant life and decomposition of coral reefs, and thus leads to imbalance in the marine ecosystem. Moreover, marine wildlife dies when they ingest industrial solid wastes, especially hazardous chemicals.
Natural Mineral Deposits
Mineral deposits are secondary water pollutants, because when they interact with water, they change the mineral composition of H2O. Bauxite deposits, for instance, interact with water at ground level when natural mineral deposits form in sewage systems. Bauxite increases the amount of Sodium (Na) in water, which leads to health problems associated with hypertension.
Water pollutants affect human life, because these substances diminish the quality of water and thus may be unsafe for drinking or consumption. When people consume contaminated water, they get ill instantaneously or develop diseases due to hazardous chemical content or water-borne pathogens coming from water pollutants. “Water pollution is the main causative factor in the diseases of the digestive system such as dysentery, amibiosis, diarrhea, cholera, etc. “About 21 per cent if all communicable diseases and 11.50 per cent of all diseases are water borne” (Misra, 2007, p. 111).
Regulations on water disposal could help reduce poor water quality. Continuous source water assessment is also important to help state governments assess the quality of water and detect contamination or sources of water pollutants. Moreover, the implementation of waste water management could help improve the quality of water, because it helps prevent water contamination through proper waste disposal. Using filtration systems to clean and purify water is also effective in improving the quality of water, especially water for human consumption.
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