Pollution is the introduction of contaminants into the natural environment that cause adverse change. Pollution can take the form of chemical substances or energy, such as noise, heat or light. Pollutants, the components of pollution, can be either foreign substances/energies or naturally occurring contaminants.
- Waste-water from the houses collected in the gutters running alongside the curbs and emitted a truly fearsome smell. There were no public toilets in the streets or squares. Visitors, especially women, often became desperate when nature called. In the public buildings the sanitary facilities were unbelievably primitive....As a metropolis, Berlin did not emerge from a state of barbarism into civilization until after 1870.
- August Bebel cited in David Clay Large, Berlin (2000) pp 17-18
- Worldwide, pharmaceutical use has been on the increase for the past century and will continue to increase into the future with the development of new medicines to cure recently discovered diseases as well as previously untreatable conditions. Following use by the patient, active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) and their metabolites are excreted to the sewerage system. They are then typically transported to a wastewater treatment works, where, depending on their molecular structure and physicochemical properties, they can be either degraded by biological treatment processes or released to the environment in effluents or sorb to sludge. The soil environment will therefore be exposed to APIs and their metabolites when sludge from treatment processes is applied to land as an agricultural fertilizer or when soil is irrigated with reclaimed wastewater effluent. While only a few studies have explored the occurrence of APIs in the soil environment, available data indicate that a range of API classes, including nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, antidepressants, anticonvulsants, and antibacterial agents do occur in soils in concentrations up to the low mg/kg level.
Because of detection of pharmaceuticals in soils, concerns have been raised over the potential for these substances to be taken up into human food items and to pose a risk to human health. A number of studies have demonstrated the uptake of pharmaceuticals used in human and veterinary medicine into plants. Studies have explored the uptake and translocation of a variety of APIs with a particular focus on the antidepressant drug fluoxetine and antibacterial chemicals including sulfamethazine, sulfamethoxazole, and trimethoprim into numerous plant species including root and shoot crops such as soybean, lettuce, and carrot.
- Laura J. Carter, Eleanor Harris, Mike Williams, Jim J. Ryan, Rai S. Kookana, and Alistair B. A. Boxall, "Fate and Uptake of Pharmaceuticals in Soil–Plant Systems", J Agric Food Chem. 2014 Jan 29; 62(4): 816–825.
- By examining conditions in China and experimenting in a lab, the scientists suggest that a combination of weather patterns and chemistry could have caused London fog to turn into a haze of concentrated sulfuric acid.
- Domonoske, Camila (2016-11-23). "Research On Chinese Haze Helps Crack Mystery of London's Deadly 1952 Fog". NPR. Retrieved 23 November 2016
- Mr. President, I find it encouraging that you are proposing an initiative for reducing air pollution. Accepting the urgency, it seems clear to me also that climate change is a problem which can no longer be left to a future generation.
- Pollution is nothing but resources we're not harvesting. We allow them to disperse because we've been ignorant of their value. But if we got onto a planning planning basis, the government could trap pollutants in the stacks and spillages and get back more money than this would cost out of the stockpiled chemistries they'd be collecting.
- Plastic pollution in the form of small particles (diameter less than 5 mm)—termed "microplastic"—has been observed in many parts of the world ocean. They are known to interact with biota on the individual level, e.g. through ingestion, but their population-level impacts are largely unknown. One potential mechanism for microplastic-induced alteration of pelagic ecosystems is through the introduction of hard-substrate habitat to ecosystems where it is naturally rare. Here, we show that microplastic concentrations in the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre (NPSG) have increased by two orders of magnitude in the past four decades, and that this increase has released the pelagic insect Halobates sericeus from substrate limitation for oviposition. High concentrations of microplastic in the NPSG resulted in a positive correlation between H. sericeus and microplastic, and an overall increase in H. sericeus egg densities. Predation on H. sericeus eggs and recent hatchlings may facilitate the transfer of energy between pelagic- and substrate-associated assemblages. The dynamics of hard-substrate-associated organisms may be important to understanding the ecological impacts of oceanic microplastic pollution.
- Goldstein, M. C.; Rosenberg, M.; Cheng, L. (2012). "Increased oceanic microplastic debris enhances oviposition in an endemic pelagic insect". Biology Letters. 8 (5): 817–20. doi:10.1098/rsbl.2012.0298. PMC 3440973 Freely accessible.
- Continued unrestricted testing by the nuclear powers, joined in time by other nations which may be less adept in limiting pollution, will increasingly contaminate the air that all of us must breathe. Even then, the number of children and grandchildren with cancer in their bones, with leukemia in their blood, or with poison in their lungs might seem statistically small to some, in comparison with natural health hazards. But this is not a natural health hazard -- and it is not a statistical issue. The loss of even one human life, or the malformation of even one baby -- who may be born long after we are gone -- should be of concern to us all. Our children and grandchildren are not merely statistics toward which we can be indifferent.
- In 1991, Landsat captured the devastating environmental consequences of war. As Iraqi forces withdrew from Kuwait, they set fire to over 650 oil wells and damaged almost 75 more, which then spewed crude oil across the desert and into the Persian Gulf.
Fires burned for ten months. According to a 2009 study published in Disaster Prevention and Management, firefighting crews from ten countries, part of a response team that comprised approximately 11,450 workers from 38 countries, used familiar and also never-before-tested technologies to put out the fires. When the last one was extinguished in November, about 300 lakes of oil remained, as well as a layer of soot and oil that fell out of the sky and mixed with sand and gravel to form 'tarcrete' across 5 percent of Kuwait's landscape.
- An estimated one to 1.5 billion barrels of oil were released into the environment. After most burned, 25 to 40 million barrels ended up spread across the desert and 11 million barrels in the Persian Gulf, according to a 2012 paper published in Remote Sensing of Environment. For comparison, the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill into the Gulf of Mexico is estimated to have released nearly 5 million barrels of oil. Kuwait's landscape has recovered somewhat. Clean up efforts have removed 21 million barrels of oil from the desert, but an estimated 1 million barrels still remain.
- “There really have been no studies that have associated the [pharmaceutical] residues in our water with human health problems,” says Ilene Ruhoy, a pediatric neurologist and environmental toxicologist who has studied the issue. That could be a sign that they pose no threat, but like Wilson, Ruhoy stresses how difficult it is to do these types of studies. “You’re talking about exposure to parts per million, parts per billion. And it’s a combination of drugs. It’s not just one drug in the water, it’s multitudes of. It’s exposure to these very, very minute amounts of these drugs, but many drugs over decades—ten, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60 years.”
- Ilene Ruhoy as qtd. in Leigh Boerner, “The Complicated Question of Drugs in the Water”, Nova Next, PBS, (May 14, 2014).
- Net-based surveys are less subjective than direct observations but are limited regarding the area that can be sampled (net apertures 1–2 m and ships typically have to slow down to deploy nets, requiring dedicated ship's time). The plastic debris sampled is determined by net mesh size, with similar mesh sizes required to make meaningful comparisons among studies. Floating debris typically is sampled with a neuston or manta trawl net lined with 0.33 mm mesh. Given the very high level of spatial clumping in marine litter, large numbers of net tows are required to adequately characterize the average abundance of litter at sea. Long-term changes in plastic meso-litter have been reported using surface net tows: in the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre in 1999, plastic abundance was 335 000 items/km2 and 5.1 kg/km2, roughly an order of magnitude greater than samples collected in the 1980s. Similar dramatic increases in plastic debris have been reported off Japan. However, caution is needed in interpreting such findings, because of the problems of extreme spatial heterogeneity, and the need to compare samples from equivalent water masses, which is to say that, if an examination of the same parcel of water a week apart is conducted, an order of magnitude change in plastic concentration could be observed.
- Ryan, P. G.; Moore, C. J.; Van Franeker, J. A.; Moloney, C. L. (2009). "Monitoring the abundance of plastic debris in the marine environment". Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 364 (1526): 1999–2012.
- “There’s been a fair amount of work done in both the U.S. and Canada as well as Europe that documents [pharmaceuticals] in wastewater and in water,” says Joanna Wilson, a biologist at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada. She studies how drugs in the water affect zebrafish, a tiny freshwater fish in the minnow family. More recent data shows that the same types of compounds are in drinking water. One study found several pharmaceuticals in treated tap water, including atenolol (a beta-blocker), carbamazepine (an anticonvulsant), gemfibrozil (an antilipidemic), meprobamate (an antianxiety medication), and phenytoin (an anticonvulsant). The concentrations of these compounds were very low, usually less than 10 nanograms per liter, which is parts per trillion. For reference, one part per trillion is equivalent to about one second in 64 years.
- “We have an aging demographic, and we have an increased reliance, in North America and Europe in particular, with the treatment of health concerns with pharmaceuticals.” This translates to more medicines making their way into the water system, and we need to determine how to deal with it, she says. “Long-term exposures [to pharmaceuticals] are quite a bit different than short term exposures, and we need to really start testing and figuring out if chronic exposures of low doses are relevant for the health of an individual or population of animals.”
- Joanna Wilson as qtd. in Leigh Boerner, “The Complicated Question of Drugs in the Water”, Nova Next, PBS, (May 14, 2014).