Every person on Earth contributes to the state of our planet because we all use natural resources and produce waste materials. At present, there are more than six billion people in the world. The more people there are, the more damage they do through pollution.
Air is one of our planet’s most precious things. Without it, we would quickly die. In some country areas, the air is clean and pure. City air is much more polluted. Factories, power stations, aircraft and motor vehicles send smoke and harmful gases into the air. These pollute the atmosphere and cause many thousands of deaths worldwide each year.
Air pollution does not just affect the people in the area where it is produced. Waste gases produced by British factories and power stations, for example, are being blown across the North Sea to Scandinavian countries. They make the rain that falls on those countries acidic. This acid rain damages, and eventually kills, trees and other plants. It washes into streams and lakes, killing the fish and other animals that live there, and makes people ill if they drink the water. Acid rain also corrodes metals and damages the stonework of buildings and statues.
Lighted cigarettes give off poisonous gases and pollute the air. Cigarette smoke damages people’s lungs, making it harder for them to breathe. Cigarettes shorten the lives of people who smoke, as well as the lives of people who have to breathe in the smoke and fumes produced by smokers.
Increasing levels of carbon dioxide, and some other gases may also affect the world’s climate. Most of the extra carbon dioxide is created when people burn fossil fuels or clear forests by burning them. As a result, average temperatures around the world appear to be rising. Even a small increase in temperature causes sea-levels to rise and affect winds and weather. Global warming also makes some of the ice in glaciers and at the polar ice caps melt.
Noise is unpleasant or unwanted sound. It can upset us, stop us from sleeping, prevent us from working efficiently and make us ill. Noise, too, is a form of pollution.
Many towns and factories are built near lakes and rivers so that they can use the water. But some towns and factories do not clean the water they use before they put it back into the rivers and lakes. The wastewater may even contain poisonous substances. Fertilizers and pesticides used on farms, as well as animal manures, can be washed into rivers and lakes. All these forms of pollution make rivers and lakes smell, kill water plants and animals and make the water unfit for people to use. It is important to remember that the water you pollute today may be the water you have to drink tomorrow.
The oceans and seas are also affected by pollution. Oil dumped accidentally or deliberately from ships can dirty beaches and kill sea plants and animals. Some ships carry poisonous or toxic cargoes. If one of these ships has an accident, the poisons may fall into the sea. The poisons and rubbish dumped in rivers also eventually end up in the sea. Poisons build up in the bodies of fish, which may then be eaten by other animals, including people.
Litter is another form of pollution. Litter not only looks unsightly but it can also harm wildlife and domestic animals. Animals may swallow litter or become tangled or trapped in it. Litter also wastes resources as many kinds of litter can be recycled.