In our previous blog, “The Negative Effects of Water Pollution on Human Health,” we discussed how contaminated water can impact health. While understanding how water pollution affects health is important, it is also wise to understand the different types of water pollution and what causes them. Water pollution can occur when any type of chemical, microorganism, or toxin contaminates an ocean, lake, river, or other body of water. Pollution can come from a single source, such as a ditch or pipe. This is known as point source water pollution. Nonpoint source pollution, in contrast, refers to contamination that does not originate from a single source.
The most common types of water pollution include:
Agriculture plays a major role in water pollution around the world. Everyday, farms release large quantities of organic matter, agrochemicals, sediments, drug residues, and saline drainage into bodies of water. Nitrate from manure, fertilizers, ammonia, and waste is one of the most common contaminants found in groundwater aquifers. These toxins can harm fish and other animals. Nitrates also soak into the ground and can end up in drinking water. If ingested, agriculture waste can cause illness and even death.
2. Wastewater and Sewage
Wastewater is any type of water that is used for industrial, agricultural, or commercial activities. This is also water that comes from your home from your toilets, showers, and sinks. Stormwater runoff is also considered wastewater and can carry a range of oils, salts, chemicals, grease, and debris that end up in the waterways. As most wastewater is transported back into the environment, it is often reused. Unfortunately, wastewater and sewage are not always treated beforehand, meaning polluted water is being used for drinking and sanitation. Drinking contaminated wastewater often results in diseases and illnesses like diarrhea.
3. Oil Pollution
Everyday, oceans are heavily polluted with oils derived from oil spills, dumping, run-offs, and routine shipping. In fact, an estimated 706 million gallons of waste-oil enters the ocean each year. As the oil is not able to dissolve in water, it develops into a thick sludge that harms fish, affects marine birds, and blocks light to aquatic plants. These oils can also contaminate water for drinking and other purposes. As oil cleanup can be a long and expensive process, cleaning water that has been contaminated with oil is simply not an option. This means men, women, and children in less privileged countries are forced to use polluted water to drink, bathe, and cook.
4. Radioactive Waste
Exposure to radiation increases the risk of damage to cells, tissues, and DNA. Long-term exposure can result in serious issues like cancers, birth defects, leukemia, genetic mutations, and immune and endocrine system disorders. When factories release radioactivity into the air, soil, and water, it can cause these problems and more in people who come into contact with the radioactive waste. Radioactive waste can also last for many centuries making cleanup a major challenge. If radioactive waste is not disposed of properly, contaminants can spread to groundwater and surface water.
5. Urban Development
Rapid urban development can have a direct impact on water pollution. Factories are often guilty of dumping chemical waste into bodies of water causing ocean pollution. Runoff from roads and highways that are covered in harmful chemicals like brake fluids, spilled fuels, and exhaust emissions, can also be washed into rivers and lakes. Even regular people are responsible for some water pollution. Simply pouring chemicals down the drain or flushing detergents down the toilet can contribute to water pollution. Oftentimes, polluted bodies of water become more contaminated as the years go by.
Today, plastics are used in all types of manufacturing ranging from the production of clothing to car parts. As plastic is lightweight, it is often washed away into rivers and oceans. Plastic is also non-biodegradable, meaning it can last for decades while presenting a danger to marine animals. Modern plastics also contain harmful chemicals that can seep into the water over time. Some types of plastic contain bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical that can have direct health effects on the brain and prostate gland of children, infants, and even fetuses, and can also go so far as to cause changes to a child’s behavior.
Learn More About Water Pollution
Water pollution can occur anytime that toxic substances enter bodies of water like oceans, rivers, lakes, and streams. As contaminants sit or become dissolved in the water, the quality of water degrades. This is not only harmful for aquatic ecosystems, but can also affect the millions of people worldwide that rely on these bodies of water for drinking, cooking, and sanitation. Knowing the various types of water pollution is the first step towards reducing water pollution. For more information about the different types of water contamination or to see how you can help diminish water pollution, contact The Last Well today.