Types of Pollution

Hello, Adventurers! Welcome back to the Coastal Expeditions blog! If this is your first time visiting our blog, we’re happy to have you here. We are all about nature, adventure, and making the most out of the beautiful outdoors of South Carolina. If you enjoy all things hiking, paddling, kayaking, and spending time outdoors, you’ve come to the right place! Here on the blog, we dive deep into different habitats, excursions, conservation efforts, and nature programs. Our site is filled with interactive maps, destination guides, and educational resources. Since the weather is getting warmer, we want to help you get out there and take advantage of all that the Lowcountry has to offer! We offer guided tours of the beautiful Lowcountry by kayak, paddleboard, ferry, boat, and private charter. We also have hands-on workshops taught by highly-trained guides on wilderness skills, birding, identifying native plants, sustainability, and camping. Basically, anything you want to learn about, we teach! If you haven’t already, we encourage you to take a look around our site to learn more about our offerings. Our last article discussed water conservation and how you can help. Today, we’ll be talking about types of pollution and how they affect the environment. If you’re interested in learning about pollution and ways you can help protect our planet, you’re in the right place! Let’s get started.

 

What is pollution?

 

Pollution is the introduction of harmful materials or contaminants into the environment. These contaminants are known as pollutants. Pollutants can be substances including solids, liquids, or gasses, or forms of energy such as heat, sound, or radioactivity. These substances are added to the environment faster than they can be dispersed, diluted, decomposed, recycled, or stored in a harmless form. Sometimes pollutants can be natural, such as sulfur dioxide or volcanic ash. Other times, pollutants are created by human activity, such as trash or runoff from factories. Generally, the main types of pollution are air, water, and land pollution, but there are other types, such as noise, thermal, and light pollution. Let’s take a deeper look at the different types of pollution.

  • Air: Air pollution is defined as chemical, physical, or biological contamination that alters the natural characteristics of the atmosphere. Some causes of air pollution are car and truck exhaust, industrial factories, wood-burning fireplaces, and wildfires. 
  • Water: Water pollution is the contamination of water sources by substances such as chemicals that make the water unusable for drinking, cleaning, or swimming. Some causes of water pollution are the use of pesticides that seeps into the Earth, contaminating groundwater, farm waste and fertilizer runoff, oil spills, and debris like plastic.
  • Land: Land pollution, sometimes known as soil pollution, is the contamination of the Earth’s surfaces at and below ground level. Some causes of land pollution are deforestation, overcrowded landfills, improper disposal of hazardous waste and garbage, and runoff.
  • Noise: Noise pollution is regular exposure to unwanted or disturbing sound that affects the health and well-being of humans and other organisms. Causes of noise pollution include traffic, planes, construction sites, industrial machines, social events, and nightlife.
  • Thermal: Thermal pollution is the sudden increase or decrease in the temperature of a natural body of water. This can decrease the amount of dissolved oxygen in the water, which aquatic organisms require. Some causes of thermal pollution include the use of water as a coolant (usually by factories), untreated sewage, agricultural runoff, and deforestation.
  • Light: Light pollution is excessive artificial lighting, usually outdoors, that disrupts the natural patterns of people and animals. The main causes of light pollution are overpopulation, poor urban planning, and excessive use of light.

 

How does pollution affect the environment?

 

Pollution affects the environment in a variety of ways, and the effects can differ based on the type of pollution. All living things depend on the Earth’s air and water, so when these are contaminated, it poses a substantial threat to all forms of life. Air pollution can pose health risks to humans when there is a high concentration of pollutants. People exposed to high concentrations of air pollution can experience irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat, breathing difficulties, coughing, and a worsening of existing conditions such as asthma. Long-term exposure to air pollution can cause cancer, and even death in some extreme situations. According to the World Health Organization, there are 4.2 million deaths every year as a result of air pollution. Just like air pollution is harmful to humans, it can pose the same effect on animals by essentially poisoning them over time as they inhale toxic carcinogens. 

 

Things such as transportation, like the use of cars and trucks, burn fossil fuel. Fossil fuel includes coal, petroleum, and natural gas. When burned, they create greenhouse gas emissions, which trap heat and make the planet warmer. This is one of the leading causes of global warming. Air pollution can also cause acid rain, which is precipitation containing harmful amounts of nitric and sulfuric acids. This can damage trees and cause soil and bodies of water to acidify, making the environment unsuitable for wildlife.

 

Fresh water suitable for human consumption only makes up a small percentage of the Earth’s water supply. (We discussed this in further detail in our blog about water conservation!) As mentioned above, things like pesticides and fertilizers as well as sewage and other effluents can drain into the Earth’s water supply, contaminating it. In fact, 80% of pollution to the marine environment comes from land. Chemicals and other contaminants are toxic to aquatic life, reducing an organism’s life span and ability to reproduce. 

When it comes to land pollution, toxic contaminants in the soil can lead to the loss of fertile land, thus limiting the land’s use for agricultural purposes. The contamination of some areas can sometimes be distributed by the wind– If the wind picks up waste, whether it is solid waste or particles from a substance, it can be transferred to other areas. Humans and wildlife can be exposed to land pollution through inhalation, ingestion, or dermal contact. Litter, such as plastics, cans, and paper, can make it difficult for plants and other producers in the food web to create nutrients.

 

Noise pollution affects millions of people on a daily basis. The most common issue it causes for people is Noise-Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL). Loud, disruptive sounds can also raise blood pressure, create sleep disturbances, and lead to stress. This type of pollution also harms wildlife, because many animals rely on sound for a variety of reasons, including to find food, navigate, attract mates, and avoid predators. If they cannot accomplish these tasks, their ability to survive is greatly reduced.

 

Thermal pollution can lead to a lack of biodiversity in aquatic species, including animals and plants. As mentioned above, thermal pollution decreases the amount of oxygen in the water. This, in turn, can kill off some species of fish and damage the larvae or eggs of fish. This type of pollution can also increase the amount of toxins found in water.

 

Light pollution contributes to the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which also contributes to global warming. Excessive artificial lighting can disrupt the natural patterns of wildlife, including wake-sleep patterns and migration patterns. Sea turtles and birds guided by moonlight during migration can become confused and lose their way, often leading to death.  

 

What can we do to minimize pollution?

 

Pollution is a very serious issue, and it’s one that we must act on. One of the things we can do on a larger scale is advocate for climate change policies and legislation. But, luckily, there are many things we can do in our everyday lives to prevent and reduce pollution.

 

  • Turn off lights when you leave the room
  • Unplug electronic devices when they are not in use
  • Use reusable water bottles rather than plastic ones
  • Carpool to work or events, use public transportation, or consider riding a bike or walking when possible
  • Bring a reusable shopping bag to the grocery store
  • Avoid buying items with excess packaging
  • Look for products that are eco-friendly or made with biodegradable materials
  • Reduce your personal pesticide use
  • Never litter– Always pick up after yourself
  • Buy locally produced goods
  • Reduce, reuse, recycle
  • Repair leaky faucets
  • Plan your meals ahead of time to reduce food waste
  • Close windows, blinds, and curtains at night to keep light inside
  • Educate family and friends about the effects of pollution

 

As you can see, there are many types of pollution and although some may appear “invisible”, they are still impacting our planet. It is our responsibility to do what we can to reduce pollution where we can. We hope that you found this article informative and helpful! At Coastal Expeditions, we are always looking for ways to help with environmental conservation. As always, we thank you for reading and we hope to see you back on our blog soon! If you’re looking to explore all that the Lowcountry has to offer, check out our offerings on our website to find the adventure which suits you best! We also offer kid-friendly tours as well as kids programs, camps, and kayak lessons. Our tours are led by knowledgeable, approachable naturalists and sea captains who are eager to answer your questions! Until next time, readers. Get out there and explore! Adventure awaits!

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@coastalexpeditions

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Isle of Palms Rentals

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Take in the stunning beauty of local creeks and waters from one of our kayaks or SUPs. Walk-ups are welcome or call / text to book and we’ll be ready when you are. All gear and instruction provided.

Call or text 843.884.7684 to book.

Outpost Location

Need A Guide?

If you really want to get a feel for the local history, identify the native wildlife, and get to special places, you'll need someone experienced to show you the way. We'll get you there.

Check out our Isle of Palms tours.

Rent a Kayak or Paddleboard Click to Book via Text