Friday, April 12, 2024
Environmental Management

Anthropogenic Sources of Pollution

Human activities are largely incriminated for environmental pollution everywhere in the world. These activities range from agriculture, mining, industries to construction and poor state of waste management.

1. Air Pollution

Air Pollution is addition of harmful substances to the atmosphere resulting in damage to the environment, human health, and quality of life. One of many forms of pollution, air pollution occurs inside homes, schools, and offices; in cities; across continents; and even globally.

Air pollution makes people sick, it causes breathing problems and promotes cancer and it harms plants, animals, and the ecosystems in which they live.

Some air pollutants return to Earth in the form of acid rain and snow, which corrode statues and buildings, damage crops and forests, and make lakes and streams unsuitable for fish and other plant and animal life.

Stationary/Point Sources

‘Stationary/Point Sources‘‘ include smoke stacks of power plants, manufacturing facilities (factories), cement, fertilizers, metal smelting, paper (pulp), textiles, flour milling, quarrying, oil refineries, road construction, etc. and waste incinerators, as well as furnaces and other types of fuel-burning heating devices.

In developing and poor countries, traditional biomass burning is the major source of air pollutants; traditional biomass includes wood, crop waste and dung.

Diffuse/Mobile Sources

Diffuse/Mobile Sources” include motor vehicles, marine vessels, aircraft and the effect of sound etc. Others include:

Chemicals, dust and controlled burn practices in agriculture and forestry management. Controlled or prescribed burning is a technique sometimes used in forest management, farming, prairie restoration or greenhouse gas abatement.

Fire is a natural part of both forest and grassland ecology and controlled fire can be a tool for foresters. Controlled burning stimulates the germination of some desirable forest trees, thus renewing the forest. Fumes from paint, hair spray, varnish, aerosol sprays and other solvents.

Waste deposition in landfills, which generate methane. Methane is not toxic; however, it is highly flammable and may form explosive mixtures with air. Methane is also an as phyxiant and may   displace oxygen in an enclosed space.

Asphyxia or suffocation may result if the oxygen concentration is reduced to below 19.5 per cent by displacement. Military, such as nuclear weapons, toxic gases, germ warfare and rocketry.

2. Water Pollution

Agriculture and the incidence of use of agrochemicals are largely responsible for water pollution in both the developing and the developed world. Herbicides for example are used to kill weeds. They are derived from trinitrophenol (2:4 D and 2:4:5 T) and contain the impurity dioxin, which is very toxic and causes fatality even in low concentrations.

A millionth of a gram can kill many humans. It also causes spontaneous abortions, haemorrhaging and cancer. Agent Orange (50% 2:4:5 T) was used as a defoliant in Vietnam.

Eleven million gallons were used and children born since then to American soldiers, who served in this conflict, have shown increased physical and mental disabilities.

It affects the head of the sperm and the chromosomes inside it. When you compare the DNA of a plant with the DNA of a human, you will immediately see why Herbicides kill humans so easily.

Rainfalls over agricultural land wash pesticides and residue of fertilizers into water bodies and pollute them.

Read Also: What is Sampling Methods of Water Quality Management and Pollution Control?

3. Land/Soil Pollution

Land Pollution is the degradation of earth’s land surfaces. Human activities are the main factor and their misuse of land resources.

Haphazard disposal of urban and industrial wastes, exploitation of minerals, and improper use of soil by inadequate agricultural practices are a few factors. Urbanization and industrialization are major causes of land pollution.

The Table below gives examples of sources of pollution and the potential pollutant discharge which could arise as a result of human activities:

Table: Sources of Pollution and the Potential Pollutants

Example of Sources  of Pollution Point Source or  DiffusePotential Pollutant
Effluent discharges  from sewage treatment works Point sourceNitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P), POPs, pathogens, litter, oxygen depleting      substances, suspended solids and settled solids.
Industrial effluentPoint sourceN, Oxygen depleting
discharges treatment substances, and a broad spectrum of chemicals, suspended solids etc.
Industrial ProcessesPoint sourceBroad spectrum of chemicals released to air and water.
Oil storage facilitiesPoint sourceHydrocarbons.
Urban storm Water        DischargesPoint source – arising from storm water runoff (from paved areas and roofs in towns and cities) entering the sewer network.N, P, Oxygen depleting substances, pathogens, suspended solids, and settled solids.
Pesticide UseDiffuseBroad Spectrum       of Chemicals.
Fish FarmingPoint SourceN, P, Oxygen  depleting substances, suspended solids, and settled solids.
Landfill SitesPoint SourceN, Ammonia, Oxygen depleting substances, Broad            spectrum of chemicals.
Organic waste recycling to LandDiffuseN, P, Pathogens.
Agricultural FertilizersDiffuseN, P.
Soil CultivationDiffuseSoil, N, P.
Power Generation FacilitiesDiffuseN, Sulphur, Mercury, POPs, Temperature (thermal) pollution.
Farm   Wastes           and SilagePoint/DiffuseN, P, Oxygen depleting substances, Pathogens, suspended and settled solids.
Contaminated LandPoint/DiffuseHydrocarbons, organic chemicals, heavy metals, Oxygen depleting substances.
MiningPoint/DiffuseHeavy metals, Acid mine drainages, suspended and settled      solids.
Leaking PipelinesPoint/DiffuseOil, Sewage,
Domestic PlumbingPoint   source –P, Oxygen depleting
MisconnectionsConnection   ofsubstances, Pathogens,
 Domestic appliancesSuspended and settled
 and toilets to rainsolids, N.
 water drains 
Source: Patrick, P.K. (1980).Glossary on Solid Wastes, WHO Regional Office for Europe, Copenhagen.

In summary, Human activities are the largest sources of pollution in the world. Since the industrial revolution in Europe in the early parts of the 20th century, environmental media (soil, air and water) have never been the same. Production activities, mining, transportation, agriculture, etc. have been responsible for the defilement of water, soil and our natural air.

Most of the sources of pollution are either point or diffused involving pollutants like Phosphorus, ammonia, Hydrocarbons, Oxygen depleting substances, oil, heavy metals Suspended and settled solids, etc.


Benadine Nonye is an agricultural consultant and a writer with over 12 years of professional experience in the agriculture industry. - National Diploma in Agricultural Technology - Bachelor's Degree in Agricultural Science - Master's Degree in Science Education... Visit My Websites On: 1. - Your Comprehensive Practical Agricultural Knowledge and Farmer’s Guide Website! 2. - For Effective Environmental Management through Proper Waste Management and Recycling Practices! Join Me On: Twitter: @benadinenonye - Instagram: benadinenonye - LinkedIn: benadinenonye - YouTube: Agric4Profits TV and WealthInWastes TV - Pinterest: BenadineNonye4u - Facebook: BenadineNonye

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