Definition of Pollution

What Is Pollution?


Pollution is the contamination of natural systems. Though some pollution occurs through natural causes such as the erupting of a volcano, most of it is the result of human activities. Pollution causes many types of ecosystem problems, including instability, physical harm or discomfort, and even death and can take many forms:

  • Air pollution: This type of pollution involves the release of airborne pollutants and particulate matter such as gases, smoke particles, chemicals, etc. into the atmosphere to the point where they contribute to human and ecosystem health problems. While some air pollutants are only considered nuisances, others have a much more profound negative impact.
  • Light pollution: With the invention of the electric light, pollution of the night sky with waste light – that which illuminates with no particular purposes – has become a growing problem. Light pollution, especially present near cities, cause many environmental problems – disrupts the normal movement and mating patterns of insects and wildlife and wastes a tremendous amount of energy (which contributes to climate change).
  • Noise pollution: The addition of auditory disturbances that irritate, harm, and/or distract living organisms. Livestock can be negatively impacted by loud noises while the predator/prey relationship can be disrupted by noise in wild animal populations. Humans are also negatively impacted by noise pollution as it can cause irritation, aggression, stress, hearing loss, and other physical and psychological problems.
  • Soil pollution: The addition of various contaminants (toxins, radioactive materials, solid waste, consumer and industrial chemicals, heavy metals, agricultural chemicals, dioxins, etc) that damage the soil’s vital ecosystem and contributes to environmental and human health problems.
  • Thermal pollution: This type of pollution occurs when ambient water temperatures are changed to the detriment of aquatic ecosystems. The addition of coolants from power plants, urban runoff, paper mills, smelters, and other industrial buildings and systems all contribute to thermal pollution.
  • Water pollution: Involves the introduction (directly or indirectly) of harmful substances into bodies of water (lakes, rivers, ground water and oceans) that have negative impacts on aquatic species and harm human health. 
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