How Many Types Of Pollution Are There?

By Oishimaya Sen Nag on October 1 2020 in Environment

Plastic pollution threatens the future generations of all species on planet Earth. Image credit: Gualtiero Boffi/Shutterstock.com
Plastic pollution threatens the future generations of all species on planet Earth. Image credit: Gualtiero Boffi/Shutterstock.com
  • Pollution can be of different types based on the part of the environment getting polluted or the major type of pollutant involved.
  • Air, water, and soil pollution are the three major types of pollution. We also have noise, visual, light, thermal, and plastic pollution. Littering and radioactive contamination also causes pollution.
  • Pollution of the environment threatens the health and future well-being of all species on Earth.
  • Pollution is unchecked can lead to the extinction of many species.

Pollution refers to the addition of contaminating substances to the natural environment resulting in an adverse impact on the environment. Pollution is human-made and the level of pollution of the environment has increased with the rise in human population and developments made by the human civilization. Pollution can be of different types depending on the part of the environment that is getting polluted or the type of pollutants/contaminants causing the pollution. Air, water, and soil pollution are the major types of pollution. However, given the wide range of ways in which our species have managed to contaminate the environment, we also have noise, light, radioactive, thermal, and plastic pollution. The different types of pollution have been discussed in greater details below.

Air Pollution -

Air pollution caused by smoke coming out of two factory chimneys in the industrial zone of Kiev, Ukraine. Image credit: LALS STOCK/Shutterstock.com
Air pollution caused by smoke coming out of two factory chimneys in the industrial zone of Kiev, Ukraine. Image credit: LALS STOCK/Shutterstock.com

Air pollution refers to the release of pollutants like toxic gases, biological molecules, and particulate matter into the atmosphere. The pollutants can be derived from several sources including both natural processes and human activity. Volcanic eruptions, limnic eruptions, automobile, and industrial effluents, etc., are some examples of air pollution sources. Carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, chlorofluorocarbons, aerosol sprays, etc., are some examples of air pollutants. Such pollution can be highly detrimental to the health and well-being of all life forms on earth.

Water Pollution -

Untreated industrial effluents entering water. Image credit: Toa55/Shutterstock.com
Untreated industrial effluents entering water. Image credit: Toa55/Shutterstock.com

In simple terms, the contamination of water bodies likes lakes, rivers, ponds, aquifers, etc., by pollutants is called water pollution. Like air pollution, water pollution is one of the most harmful types of pollution. It can have extremely disastrous consequences for all living beings using the contaminated water. A major volume of the all the pollutants produced on land end up in water bodies. Toxic wastes released by industries, pathogens released in sewage, harmful chemicals present in agricultural runoffs, etc., are some of the top water pollutants. The contamination of water can lead to epidemics and even pandemics that can wipe out the population of an entire species or even more than one species. Thus, water pollution has a highly adverse impact on the environment, society, and economy of a place.

Soil Contamination -

Soil contaminated by industrial effluents. Image credit: Lefryandi/Shutterstock.com
Soil contaminated by industrial effluents. Image credit: Lefryandi/Shutterstock.com

When the soil of an area is contaminated, it leads to soil pollution or land degradation. The soil is essential to the growth of all plants including crops. Thus, a degradation in the soil quality translates to lower yields and poor health of crops grown on such soil. Industrial and agricultural chemicals are the common pollutants contaminating the soil.

Noise Pollution -

Noise pollution caused by heavy traffic is a common nuisance in our everyday lives. Image credit: Diego Cervo/Shutterstock.com
Noise pollution caused by heavy traffic is a common nuisance in our everyday lives. Image credit: Diego Cervo/Shutterstock.com

When the environment is filled with unnecessary or unpleasant sounds that are harmful to animals and plants, it is called noise pollution. Transport vehicles, machinery, industries, loud music, people yelling, etc., are some of the most common sources of noise pollution. This type of pollution on the long-term can give rise to chronic diseases like cardiovascular diseases. The psychological health of people can also be affected by noise.

Plastic Pollution -

Plastics strewn along the coast in the Panama Canal region. Image credit: Fotos593/Shutterstock.com
Plastics strewn along the coast in the Panama Canal region. Image credit: Fotos593/Shutterstock.com

As the name suggests, plastic pollution is caused by plastic accumulation in the environment. Plastic, a non-biodegradable substance, is extremely harmful to all life on earth. Every year, thousands of animals lose their lives due to plastic pollution. Ingestion of plastics or entanglement in plastic objects kill these animals. Most of the plastic waste generated in the world end up in the oceans where they cause great harm to the marine ecosystem.

Radioactive Contamination -

Expert collecting water sample for checking radioactive contamination of the water body. Image credit: Adam Gregor/Shutterstock.com
Expert collecting water sample for checking radioactive contamination of the water body. Image credit: Adam Gregor/Shutterstock.com

When radioactive substances are present in areas where their presence is undesirable or unintended, it results in a type of pollution called radioactive contamination. Such substances are highly toxic to all life on earth. Radioactive substances trigger mutations in the genetic material of living organisms, leading to different types of cancers. Exposure to such toxins can also adversely impact the different systems of the body. Death or disfiguration are common effects of exposure to radioactive waste. Irresponsible management of such wastes or radioactive disasters are the common causes of radioactive contamination.

Light Pollution -

Bright lights on the highway in Taiwan create light pollution affecting wildlife. Image credit: PhotonCatcher/Shutterstock.com
Bright lights on the highway in Taiwan create light pollution affecting wildlife. Image credit: PhotonCatcher/Shutterstock.com

The pollution of the night environment by anthropogenic light is known as light pollution. This type of pollution is caused by an excessive lighting of the streets, flood lights used in stadiums, lights used in an industrial area, etc. The negative effects of light pollution include the spoilage of the aesthetic environment of a place, creating disturbances in the ecosystem, and also harming the health of living creatures.

Thermal Pollution -

Hot water from industry released into local water body. Image credit: ToptoDown/Shutterstock.com
Hot water from industry released into local water body. Image credit: ToptoDown/Shutterstock.com

An induced change in the temperature of large volumes of water causes thermal pollution. This type of pollution leads to the degradation of water quality as the warm water does not provide ideal living conditions for aquatic flora and fauna. For example, when water used as a coolant in power plants or that used in industries is released into a natural water body, the warm or hot water mixes with the rest of the water to raise the overall temperature of the aquatic ecosystem. Higher temperatures also alter the composition of dissolved elements in water. The flora and fauna living in the area that was earlier adapted to a particular temperature range can be killed by this abrupt change in the water temperature. Thus, aquatic life experiences a thermal shock due to thermal pollution.

Visual Pollution -

The chaos of cables and wires connections on the pole in Kathmandu, Nepal creating visual pollution. Image credit: Vladimir Zhoga/Shutterstock.com
The chaos of cables and wires connections on the pole in Kathmandu, Nepal creating visual pollution. Image credit: Vladimir Zhoga/Shutterstock.com

Everyone loves to see clean and green spaces and beautiful vistas. When human activity installs ugly barriers to this vision of open and clutter-free landscapes, it is called visual pollution. The installation of billboards, open storage of trash, networks of electric wires crisscrossing each other above the street, etc., create visual pollution. This type of pollution generates distraction, eye fatigues, diversity in opinions, and other psychological problems.

Littering -

Littering on the streets of Toulouse, France. Image credit: Mikalai Kachanovich/Shutterstock.com
Littering on the streets of Toulouse, France. Image credit: Mikalai Kachanovich/Shutterstock.com

When waste products generated by humans is not disposed of properly, it is called littering. Here, waste can include anything that is discarded by humans after use like bottles, glass, packaging material, electronic waste, metal waste, etc. Some of these pollutants like electronics, batteries, tires, etc., are hazardous to the health of the environment. When chemicals from such wastes leach into the soil or enter the water bodies, they cause soil contamination and water pollution. Finally, these chemicals enter the bodies of organisms to cause disease and death.

How Many Types Of Pollution Are There?

RankType of pollutionDefinition
1Air PollutionAir pollution refers to the release of pollutants like toxic gases, biological molecules, and particulate matter into the atmosphere.
2Water PollutionThe contamination of water bodies likes lakes, rivers, ponds, aquifers, etc., by pollutants is called water pollution.
3Soil ContaminationWhen the soil of an area is contaminated, it leads to soil pollution or land degradation.
4Noise PollutionWhen the environment is filled with unnecessary or unpleasant sounds that are harmful to animals and plants, it is called noise pollution.
5Plastic PollutionPlastic pollution is caused by plastic accumulation in the environment.
6Radioactive ContaminationWhen radioactive substances are present in areas where their presence is undesirable or unintended, it results in radioactive contamination
7Light PollutionThe pollution of the night environment by anthropogenic light is known as light pollution.
8Thermal PollutionAn induced change in the temperature of large volumes of water causes thermal pollution.
9Visual PollutionWhen human activity installs ugly barriers to this vision of open and clutter-free landscapes, it is called visual pollution.
10LitteringWhen waste products generated by humans is not disposed of properly, it is called littering

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