Water pollution is an aspect of pollution that commonly goes below the radar; however, it is a huge aspect of pollution that has detrimental effects and must be handled effectively and quickly in order to obtain a clean environment. Water covers over 70% of the earth and is something we as the human species need to survive. Along with our bodies need for water, it also obtains all of our marine life, which is commonly used as food for the human species. The toxins and bacteria that can enter the food chain raise the possibility of the potential human health problems that can arise from water pollution. It is of our best interest to focus on the causes of water pollution and promote ways to decrease it. Although the human species’s survival is dependent upon water, humans actually are one of the main causes of water pollution because humans contribute to or take part in marine dumping, industrial waste, and mining, which are all huge contributors to water pollution.
Prior to examining the multiple ways humans infect the water and contribute to water pollution, it is first critical to understand how water pollution is classified. Sources of water pollution have been separated into two separate groups, point and non-point sources. Point sources, such as sewage, underground mines, oil wells and tankers, agriculture and various factories, are sources that discharge pollutants at specific locations through pipelines or sewers into the surface water. As point sources can be traced to a single site of discharge, non-point sources cannot. Non-point sources are ultimately harder to control and trace because they are sources such as traffic pollution and pollutants that use groundwater as their entryway into bodies of water (“Water Treatment Solutions,” 2009).
Through close analysis, it is clear that humans have the most influential effect on water pollution. Being a main cause, human activities are ultimately leading to their own downfall by promoting the unhealthy environment that has negative effects for them and the world around them. The Clean Water Act, passed in 1972, has unfortunately not been followed as closely as planned, ultimately resulting in the increase in water pollution today. Many states are failing to use the Clean Water Act, an act that was aimed to protect people and wildlife from water pollution. There has been an annual increase in the amount of illness due to drinking contaminated water, multiple beaches have been closed and many other restrictions have been put in place due to the negative human influence on water pollution and their failure to abide by the Clean Water Act and ultimately their failure to protect themselves and the world around them (“Most States,” 2000).
One of the main contributors of water pollution by humans comes from the marine transport sector. Ships today can carry near 5,000 passengers, some ships even more, and ultimately are carrying majority of the waste that is dumped into the ocean. Katsioloudis (2010) states that these ships have the ability to generate at least 11 million gallons of waste water daily. Annually, these ships have been estimated to produce and emit up to 1.6 million metric tons of waste. Katsioloudis (2010) refers to the ships as “floating cities” and these floating cities ultimately produce majority of the waste found in the oceans.
Of the marine sector, one of the most common forms of waste that is emitted into the ocean is sewage. Katsioloudis (2010) suggests that sewage may actually be the most universal form of marine pollution. Sewage being emitted into the water introduces a number of disease-causing microorganisms in the water and the resulting diseases and illnesses often find their way back to the humans who emitted the pollution into the water in the first place. Along with most, if not all sea life, some of the most common sea foods found in many markets today, such as oysters, clams and mussels, are also greatly effected by sewage pollution in the water. The bacteria and viruses emitted into the water are ultimately concentrated by the shellfish when they feed and can lead the human consumption of the bacteria or viruses.
Along with sewage, solid wastes play a critical part in water pollution from the marine transport sector. Katsioloudis (2010) states that “majority of solid waste generated on cruise ships includes large volumes of plastic, paper, wood, cardboard, food waste, cans, and glass.” Although most commonly, these forms of solid waste are incinerated on board and then disposed of into the water in ash form, it has also been known that many of these solid waste are simply thrown overboard prior to being incinerated. These floating debris have serious detrimental effects on a variety of marine animals. If the marine life ingest these debris, especially plastic, the resulting entanglement can ultimately be fatal. Parker (2011) states that in a study where they were investigating the death of marine life, they found multiple forms of human debris that have been discarded by humans into the ocean inside or wrapped around the dead marine life. Katsioloudis (2010) elaborates on the fact that the Coast Guard estimates that “more than one million birds and 100,000 marine mammals die each year from eating or getting entangled in plastic debris.” Estimations such as these are often found to be underestimated, which means more marine life could actually be effected by human actions and the dumping of sewage and solid wastes.
Along with the marine transport sector, industrial waste is another top running contributor to water pollution. Our nation is clearly an industrial one and with that comes a large amount of waste that ultimately find their way into the environment. Tarr (1985) agrees that most of these wastes that enter the environment and contribute to most of the water pollution are hazardous, while some still have unknown human health effects and could ultimately be more harmful than those we are already aware of. Effler (2009) notes that the increase of industrial wastes being emitted into waterways can ultimately lead to sever deterioration of certain waterways or areas and can ultimately result in a lose of use for these areas.
Industrial wastes are also known to emit asbestos, which is actually now banned in 52 countries. According to LaDou (2010), all forms of asbestos are now banned in those countries and what seemed to be safer products had replaced many materials that once were made with it. Although asbestos is banned, many countries are still using asbestos illegally. With the illegal use, asbestos is still finding its way into the water and polluting it. Unfortunately, one of the most common ways asbestos is still polluting water is mainly from industrial waste. Asbestosis and various forms of cancer can result from the polluted water and can only be stopped if critical measures are taken to stop industrial wastes and its contribution to water pollution.
Although asbestos generally goes under the radar as an industrial waste, oil is a common industrial waste that has been an issue for a number of years. Obviously, the public health can be greatly effected from oil spills as it clearly creates unhealthful water. When oil is exposed to water, it does not dissolve and ultimately results in a thick layer covering the surface of the water. That alone has detrimental effects on the marine life inhabiting that area of water. Klemas (2010) also acknowledges that oil spills can destroy marine life and have very negative effects for those it does not destroy. Katsioloudis (2010) states that oil enters the marine environment “from land runoff, natural seeps, vessels, pipelines, and offshore exploration and production platforms.” Once again, the marine transport sector is known to contribute to high percentages of accidental spills worldwide. The biological breakdown of petroleum products from these oil spills can create great threats to human health if ingested due to a variety of toxic compounds in the oil and their impact on internal organs. This also ultimately harms and can be fatal to many fish and wildlife. Not only are the marine life inhabiting the waters effected, but many other wildlife are effected, such as seabirds. Katsioloudis (2010) acknowledges the harm to these animals because the layer the oil creates on the ocean surface, which is where many of these seabirds spend most, if not all of their time. The effect of oil from industrial waste effects humans, the marine life, and wildlife and is a lead contributor in water contamination by humans.
Along with the marine transport sector and the variety of industrial wastes, mining also highly contributes to water pollution. The process of mining includes a wide variety of large metals and many ultimately become waste that enters many waterways. Ivanova (2005) states that heavy metals are actually amongst some of the most toxic and “environmentally dangerous pollutants.” A main element commonly known to be a waste product of mining is cyanide. Cyanide has been reported to contribute to malign tumor formations, and according to Ivanova (2005), the heavy metal and cyanide produced from mining waste showed to be some of the risk factors. Ivanova (2005) also explains that heavy metal and cyanide have known to have mutagen effects and they are potential threats to human health.
Mine wastes are dumped in a variety of locations; however, regardless of where they are dumped they have detrimental effects on marine life and human health due to the pollution of the water. Moran (2009) states that these dumping practices have produced “documented impacts to marine life and alleged impacts to humans.” Mining waste is produced due to the fact that most of the rock that is removed and processed ultimately ends as waste. The waste is supposed to be stored and managed; however, many companies find it easier to get rid of the waste else where in order to eliminate their responsibility with it. Moran (2009) gives details as to the processed rocks and their components, which generally include almost every element known to man. According to Moran (2009), some of the most common pollutants are “arsenic, cadmium, copper, lead, mercury, nickel, selenium, zinc, and uranium.” Many other chemicals are required and critical to the actually processing of the metal ores. Most of these elements and chemicals are all known to be individually toxic to humans, marine organisms and ultimately intoxicates and contaminates our water.
Although the marine transport sector, industrial wastes, and marine wastes are a few of the many ways humans contribute to water pollution, there are numerous other ways humans contribute to water pollution daily. Not only does the water pollution ultimately effect us and our health, it also can have detrimental effects for our environment and the marine and wild life inhabiting it. The food chain plays a huge role in water pollution, as many humans ultimately rely on water and other wildlife or marine life as sources for food. Human bodies need water to survive, and many humans prefer to eat wildlife or marine life as food to get nutrients essential to our survival. Although human survival is based upon those needs, humans are unfortunately very irresponsible in their practices and are ultimately leading to their own demise. Humans are one of the main contributors to water pollution. For our own health, it would be wise to acknowledge this fact and take the initiative to begin creating solutions to our problems rather than continuing to create them.
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