Have you paid attention to water pollution in the world? If you have, then you know that the topic of water pollution is particularly important in the world more than ever now. Pollution in water is having a major effect on humans and wildlife.
Water pollution occurs when harmful substances, which are most likely chemicals or microorganisms , contaminate a stream or a body of water. The water that has been contaminated turns into toxins in the environment and effects the human body. Along with water pollution, drought, and an exploding population have endangered freshwater, which humans heavily rely on for drinking and other necessities. Research however shows that our tap water contains a “forever chemical”— substances called poly and perfluoroalkyl which is short for PFAS.
Protecting water is essential because though nearly 70 percent of the world is covered by water, only 2.5 percent of it is fresh and just one percent of freshwater is easily accessible. Much of the water is trapped in remote glaciers and snowfields. Furthermore, drinking water pollution can happen if the water in pipes are not treated properly. Water pipes not being treated properly can lead to lead contamination like in Flint Michigan. Another pollutant is is arsenic, which comes from industrial waste. Arsenic is very harmful to the body because it can cause cancer and skin lesions. It can also be associated with diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Arsenic in water can have cognitive effects and possible increase deaths of young adults.
Water pollution has negative effects on human health. The negative effects include Traveler’s Diarrhea, Salmonella, Cholera, Dysentery, E. coli, Hepatitis A and E, Parasitic Infections, Botulism and lastly Typhoid Fever. In 2015, according to a study published in The Lancet water pollution caused 1.8 million deaths across the world. Furthermore, contaminated water can also make one ill. Every year, unsafe water sickens about 1 billion people. With unsafe water making 1 billion people sick the low-income communities are at more of a greater risk because their homes are often closest to the most polluting industries. Waterborne pathogens, is a form of a disease which causes bacteria and viruses from human and animal waste, is a major cause of illness from contaminated drinking water. Even in wealthy nations, accidental or illegal releases from sewage treatment facilities, as well as runoff from farms and urban areas, contribute harmful pathogens to waterways. Thousands of people across the United States are sickened every year by Legionnaires’ disease (a severe form of pneumonia contracted from water sources like cooling towers and piped water).
Water pollution has an impact on wildlife as well. The toxins collected along the way have resulted in the creation of large dead zones in the Gulf of Mexico. With those toxins being in the Gulf of Mexico water, it has affected over 130 federally protected species including marine life, birds, and land animals. According to the EPA, 46 percent of rivers and streams cannot support aquatic wildlife in the United States. Furthermore, it’s not only farms that contribute to waste; slaughterhouses are also to blame, with facilities in the U.S. being responsible for 55 million pounds of pollutants being poured into waterways each year. These introduce dangerous levels of ammonia, nitrogen and phosphorus into lakes and waterways. Animal waste from factory farms also contains hormones which, when introduced into water systems, can cause reproductive problems in fish.
Over 70 percent of terrestrial animal species are dependent upon water. Yet, despite the warnings, water pollution continues. Sewage overflows, legal or not, continue to dump bacteria, parasites, and toxic chemicals into waterways. Coastal environments continue to be imperiled by oil spills, killing wildlife, and causing millions of dollars in property damage. Unless measures are taken, the very water we drink is in danger. If these measures are not taken, wildlife will continue to suffer. Having nitrogen and phosphorus in the water, leads to an increased growth of toxic algae and aquatic plants, which causes poisoning and death in fish and other animals who feed on them. Oil spills that introduce unhealthy amounts of oil into the marine environment also make marine animals sick and lead to their unnatural deaths. Another thing that can happen is that polluted water contaminates the soil and agricultural produce. This may lead to health issues in herbivorous animals who feed on agricultural plants and leftovers.
Another thing that we should consider when thinking about water pollution is acid rain. Acid rain and water pollution coincide with each other very well and they are both harmful to wildlife and human health. Acid rain makes waters more acidic, which results in more aluminum absorption from soil, which is carried into lakes and streams. That combination makes waters toxic to crayfish, clams, fish, and other aquatic animals. However, in an interconnected ecosystem, acid rain affects some species and eventually affects many more throughout the food chain, including non-aquatic species such as birds.
The effects of acid rain, combined with other environmental stressors, leave trees and plants less healthy, more vulnerable to cold temperatures, insects, and disease. The pollutants may also inhibit trees’ ability to reproduce. Some soils are better able to neutralize acids than others. Acid rain and fog also damage forests, especially those at higher elevations. The acid deposits rob the soil of essential nutrients such as calcium and cause aluminum to be released in the soil, which makes it hard for trees to take up water. Trees’ leaves and needles are also harmed by acids. For human life, acid deposits damage physical structures such as limestone buildings and cars.
Water pollution can be very harmful to human and wildlife. Water pollution has to be taken more seriously, so the nation can get better and so human and wildlife health can improve.