Invariably when we hear the word ‘pollution’, we always think of plastics, fertilizers or oil spills. While these pollutants do cause a significant amount of pollution, we should not forget that our industries also dump a substantial amount of toxic chemicals and other pollutants into the soil, air and water.
Most of the Earth’s surface is covered with water, and the only sources of fresh and potable water are lakes, rivers, ponds and streams. However, these are endangered sources of water as slowly but surely industrial wastes are finding their way into them. Industrial wastes like oil, grease, acids, alkalis, dyes, radioactive compounds and pesticides are being found in rivers, streams, and estuaries. Power plants are notorious for discharging pollutants into water bodies. For instance, hot water, which is a by-product, is invariably discharged into nearby water bodies and this ends up killing the delicate flora and fauna living there. Other pollutants that are commonly seen in water bodies are compounds of polychlorinated biphenyl and lubricants. Some of the pollutants actually end up dissolving in the water and find their way up the food chain, while others stay suspended or settle down at bottom of the water body.
Nowadays, oil spills are making environmentalists rather nervous. The frequency of oil spills has increased and as a result several marine animals and plants die each year. Did you know that around 1.3 million barrels of oils are spilt each year into the Persian Gulf, and around 285 million gallons of oil are spilt each year into the oceans across the world?
In the US, nearly half of the water pollution around the country is attributed to industries. It is quite common for industries to discharge effluents such as asbestos, mercury, lead, sulfuric acid, nitrates and phosphates into water bodies. This is despite the stringent laws the US has, so you can imagine the situation in developing countries. In many developing nations, industrial waste is not treated sufficiently before it is discharged into water bodies. Hence, in these countries, water pollution is pretty bad. Also, sometimes even in developed nations, small scale industries do not want to spend money to install correct pollution control measures. So, even here water pollution is a problem.
According to researchers, water pollutants cause serious diseases like cholera, hepatitis, diarrhea, dysentery and also salmonella. In addition, many of these pollutants are carcinogenic. Some pollutants found in water can lead to several cardiovascular diseases, and metals like lead and mercury can lead to neurological disorders. Other pollutants, like DDT, can lead to genetic changes.
While countries are slowly waking up to the potential disaster of industrial waste pollution, it is still a long way before significant changes in laws and policies will show effect.