What is Pollution?
Pollution is anything that is introduced into the environment that has the potential to negatively
affect the life forms that live there including humans, animals, and plants. Most pollution comes
from humans and our inventions (such as cars, airplanes, lights, plastic, factories, etc.) There
are many different kinds of pollution. Some of them can be seen, like trash in the ocean, or
smelt like smoke in the air. Others can’t be physically recognized at all. Some types of pollution
affect the whole world whereas others may only affect the local area. Many types of pollution
overlap and affect one another.
The 9 Different Kinds of Pollution
1. Air pollution : substances in the atmosphere that are harmful to the health of living
beings, or cause damage to the climate.
Examples : carbon monoxide, lead, nitrogen oxides, particulate matter, and more. Many
also consider carbon dioxide (CO2) to be an air pollutant when it comes from the human
Consequences : air pollution can carry across the globe due to wind and rain. It can
prevent photosynthesis in plants and cause acid rain, depletion of the ozone layer,
global warming, the greenhouse effect, etc. Exposure to air pollution can also cause
many health problems in humans including cardiovascular problems, allergies, asthma
attacks, conjunctivitis, bronchial diseases, lung or skin cancers, vision problems, and
harming the mental development of children.
2. Land pollution : the deterioration of the earth’s land surfaces at and below ground level
caused by the accumulation of solid and liquid waste materials that contaminate
groundwater and soil.
Example : soil contamination, which is caused by a change in the natural soil
environment due to industrial activity, agricultural chemicals, or improper disposal of
Consequences : undrinkable water, loss of fertile land or agriculture, habitat shifts, an
increase in wildfires, an increase in air pollution, and the endangerment and extinction of
3. Light pollution : the excessive, misdirected, or obtrusive use of artificial light in the night
Example : Times Square in New York City is a great example of clutter light pollution.
Consequences : Light pollution can interrupt our sleep and confuse our circadian
rhythms, impact the migration patterns, wake-sleep habits, and habitat formation of
animals, and reduce astronomer’s ability to see stars and other celestial objects.
4. Noise pollution: unwanted or disturbing sounds that affect the health and well-being of
Examples : road traffic, jet planes, garbage trucks, construction equipment, lawnmowers,
leaf blowers, concerts, fireworks, etc.
Consequences : human health problems including stress, poor concentration, productivity
loss, communication difficulties, fatigue from lack of sleep, cardiovascular disease,
cognitive impairment, tinnitus, and hearing loss. Noise pollution also affects animals by
interfering with their breeding cycles and raising of young.
5. Personal pollution : the contamination of one’s body and mind by detrimental lifestyle
Examples : Smoking or drinking, drug abuse, emotional or physical abuse, poor living
conditions, and more.
Consequences : various health conditions, financial problems, stress on relationships,
mental health issues, addiction, and more.
6. Radioactive pollution : radioactive substances on surfaces or within solids, liquids, or
gases, where they shouldn’t be or where we don’t want them.
Examples : Nuclear explosions, nuclear waste, mining, etc.
Consequences : Exposure to a high amount of radiation can cause chronic diseases,
cancer, or even death. Individual reactions to radiation vary depending on a person’s
sensitivity to radiation.
7. Thermal pollution : a sudden increase or decrease in the temperature of a natural body of
Example : the use of water as a coolant by power plants. When water is used as a
coolant it is returned to the natural environment at a higher temperature.
Consequences : the sudden change in temperature decreases oxygen supply and
negatively affects the ecosystem.
8. Visual pollution : the impacts of pollution that impair one’s ability to enjoy a pleasant view.
Examples : trash cans, reflected light, cell phone towers, business signs, buildings,
Consequences : lower quality of life, loss of original character of a region, neglect of the
area, effects on flora and fauna, and potential mental and physical health issues.
9. Water pollution : the contamination of bodies of water (lakes, rivers, oceans, and
groundwater), usually as a result of human activities.
Example : runoff from farms or homes that contains fertilizers, pesticides, and/or
herbicides contaminating local bodies of water.
Consequences : the destruction of aquatic plants and animals, contamination of the food
chain, contamination of drinking water, disease, and more.
This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the different kinds of pollution. It’s important
that we continue to educate ourselves on pollution and better understand it so we can make
choices in our individual lives and on a national and global scale that will limit pollution and help
all living beings to live happier healthier lives.