The Effects Water Pollution and How We Can Help

Water is one of the most essential elements on Earth. The environment, animals, and humans alike depend on it to thrive. Although there appears to be a limitless amount of water on the planet, only a small percentage of that water is consumable or safe for human use. Unfortunately, this small percentage of water, as well as the world's water supply as a whole, is at risk due to water pollution. When water is polluted it affects not only humankind, but the ecosystem as well. Because of the importance of water to the balance of all life, finding solutions to water pollution must become a priority. In order to find these solutions however, people must understand certain water pollution facts.

Causes of Water Pollution

There are numerous causes of water pollution; however, a majority of them are a result of the actions of mankind. Pollutants may be domestic and municipal in nature, or industrial. Infectious agents, inorganic chemicals, organic chemicals, radioactive waste, sediment, plant nutrients, and oxygen-demanding waste are all common causes of water pollution. Sediment, such as soil and silt, is one of the most common water pollutants and is typically the result of land erosion. Thermal pollution is another pollutant and comes from the heat created by power plants and industrial cooling. Plastic bottles, bags and packaging also make their way into the ocean, forming large islands of garbage in the process.

Effects of Water Pollution on the Environment

The effects of water pollution can easily be seen in the environment. Pollutants such as fertilizer can cause an increase in algae and plants that choke off the available oxygen. The decrease in oxygen due to the overcrowding of algae has been known to cause the widespread death of fish and other marine life. Radioactive waste from nuclear power plants result in harmful mutations in the animals who are exposed. Insecticides in the water supply can kill both plant and animal life, including bees which are necessary for pollination. Other undeniable water pollution facts include the effect of garbage in the water. Animals such as fish can get entangled by the plastic or they can choke. Birds and sea life that consume the plastic derive no nutrients from it and may die of malnutrition, or from the toxins that plastics soak up from the ocean itself.

Effects of Water Pollution on Health

Water pollution can result in the poisoning of fish and other animals that have lived in or drank from the affected water supply. This can result in the widespread deaths of fish and other animal life, the disruption of the natural food chain, and food shortages for humans. The effects of water pollution also include the risk of food poisoning that goes undetected until health problems emerge. Infectious agents that contaminate the water, including animal or human waste, can cause disease and illness, such as cholera. Algae in the water supply can release toxins that are potentially deadly to humans. Medicines flushed into sewers can find their way back into the water supply, potentially resulting in congenital birth defects and reproductive problems. In addition, radioactive water pollution results in an increased risk of various types of cancer.

How to Prevent Water Pollution

The best solutions to water pollution involve prevention rather than cleaning up after the fact. Fortunately there are a variety of ways that environmentally conscious people can stop pollution from occurring in the first place. Farms can abstain from dumping chemicals into streams, including agricultural waste, fertilizer or pesticides. Community groups can mark storm drains to warn people against dumping chemicals or garbage down the drains. Cities can provide the means for the proper recycling of used motor oil or disposal of unused medications. Even driving fewer miles and burning less fossil fuels will help alleviate water pollution by reducing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which contributes to making the oceans more acidic.

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