Chemical Pollution

Definition

Chemical pollution is defined as the presence or increase in our environment of chemical pollutants that are not naturally present there or are found in amounts higher than their natural background values. Most of the chemicals that pollute the environment are man-made, resulted from the various activities in which toxic chemicals are used for various purposes.

Chemical intoxication is caused by exposure to chemical pollutants and can have immediate effects or delayed effects, which may appear after weeks or even months after the exposure occurred. Severe chemical intoxication may cause the death of the person that inhales an increased quantity of such substances. 

Chemical compounds are organic or inorganic chemicals that are the main causes of chemical pollution. The most common chemical pollutants are those compounds used across large areas and which are persistent, meaning they do not easily degrade in nature. Examples are most pesticides, herbicides, insecticides used in agriculture and gardening, as well as chlorinated solvents used in many industrial processes and dry-cleaning activities.

Based on their chemical structure, chemical contaminants can be classified into naturally-occurring and man-made categories. They can be organic or inorganic (organic compounds always contain carbon and carbon-hydrogen bonds, whereas most inorganic compounds do not contain carbon).

Examples of Chemical Pollutants

Chemical pollutants mostly result from various human activities like the manufacturing, handling, storing, and disposing of chemicals. These occur in industrial places and activities such as oil refineries, coal power plants, construction, mining & smelting, transportation, agricultural use of pesticides and insecticides, as well as household activities.

The chemical industry is another example in this sense, mainly because it is usually linked to polluted waste streams. In fact, the waste streams from chemical industry are now strictly controlled and treated before being released into the environment. But this was not always the case in the past and many rivers and surface water bodies were contaminated by the numerous waste streams coming from various chemical plants, as well as other industrial sources. Even though measures were taken to reduce this type of pollution, its effects are still visible.

Household chemicals involve a variety of chemical products and mixtures that can easily become chemical pollutants when released into the environment. Even the everyday detergents are chemical compounds that may pollute our environment! Read the labels of detergent products to confirm that they contain a variety of potentially hazardous chemicals.

The Effects of Chemical Pollution

Chemical pollution can be caused by a variety of chemicals from a variety of sources and can involve a variety of health effects from simple digestive problems to chemical intoxication and sudden death by poisoning. The effects are usually related to the exposure to high amounts of chemicals. Chemical pollution leads to various serious diseases, generally by consuming poisonous food, drinking highly contaminated water, or breathing highly contaminated air. 

Chemical intoxication can have severe health effects that may trigger immediate symptoms and diseases or delayed effects which may appear after weeks or months since the exposure occurred. This is based on the type of pollutants and on the amounts to which you are exposed. CAUTION, never assume that all is OK if no health effects appear immediately!

Various chemical pollutants may accumulate in the aquatic sediments over longer periods of time. This means that, if no tests are performed, chemical pollution in the ocean water could pose serious health risks to the ecosystem and ultimately could cause mild or deadly chemical intoxication in humans after the consumption of contaminated fish or seafood. However, there are prevention tips you can follow to minimize exposure to chemical pollution.



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