Pollution is defined as the introduction of harmful contaminants into the environment, negatively altering our surroundings. The widespread prevalence of environmental pollution began with the birth of the industrial revolution in the early 1900s. The emergence of large factories gave rise to unprecedented amounts of pollution from coal burning and immense industrial chemical discharges.
Industrialization has not slowed down since then, and as economies and populations have continued to grow over the years, so too has environmental pollution. This has created a serious global problem that has affected biodiversity, ecosystems, and human health worldwide. Whilst pollution can take several forms, such as light, noise, and radioactive waste, the three major types are air, land, and water pollution. Humans contribute to each of these every day.
Air pollution is a major problem, especially in more urban areas. It is typically caused by fossil fuel combustion from the transportation and industrial sectors, which emit harmful pollutants such as PM2.5 and nitrogen dioxide. Whilst people from all walks of life are affected, the most polluted areas are typically in the developing world. As of 2019, the most polluted country in the world is Bangladesh, which has dangerously high PM2.5 particulate matter concentrations. In this same year, Delhi, India was ranked as the world’s most polluted capital city for the second year running. People all around the world suffer from high air pollution exposure, causing millions of premature deaths every year.
Much like emissions, waste generation has been increasing steadily around the world, with those in developed nations producing the most per capita. One of the most harmful forms of waste is electronic waste. Electronics can consist of toxic components such as mercury and chromium, so when devices are not properly disposed of it can lead to soil and water contamination. However, e-waste typically ends up in landfill sites in developing countries.
Another form of waste that has been brought to the public’s attention in recent years is plastic waste. Since the 1950s, billions of tons of plastic have been produced with only a small fraction of this being recycled. Because of this, huge quantities of plastics end up in oceans, leading to ecological disasters such as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
Environmental Pollution Statistics
- Pollution is one of the biggest global killers, affecting over 100 million people. That’s comparable to global diseases like malaria and HIV.
- Cleanups can save animals’ lives and discourage people from littering in the future. Take initiative and host a cleanup — wearing anything but clothes! — at a park near you. Sign up for ABC Cleanup.
- In 1975, the National Academy of Sciences estimated that ocean-based sources, such as cargo ships and cruise liners had dumped 14 billion pounds of garbage into the ocean.
- Over 1 million seabirds and 100,000 sea mammals are killed by pollution every year.
- People who live in places with high levels of air pollutants have a 20% higher risk of death from lung cancer than people who live in less-polluted areas.
- The Mississippi River carries an estimated 1.5 million metric tons of nitrogen pollution into the Gulf of Mexico each year, creating a “dead zone” in the Gulf each summer about the size of New Jersey.
- Approximately 40% of the lakes in America are too polluted for fishing, aquatic life, or swimming.
- Americans make up an estimated 5% of the world’s population. However, the US uses 25% of the world’s resources – burning up nearly 25% of the coal, 26% of the oil, and 27% of the world’s natural gas.
These are some scary statistics of environmental pollution.