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Guest articles

Five obvious pollution sources which are often overlooked

Wherever you look, there’s always a chance that you might see some environmental damage being done. It could be something as minimal as dropping a sweet wrapper on the pavement or something on a far larger scale such as a factory billowing smoke, but whatever it is, it’s playing a noticeable role in accelerating the eventual destruction of our planet.
Pollution is something that can be hard to spot from some sources. While any smoke coming from, say, an industrial estate, large factory or a large-scale forest fire can be seen from a distance, there are other forms of pollution which are less obvious and less visible. Here, we look at five examples of pollution sources which perfectly fit this description:

Kerosene lanterns
Popular in rural areas and poorer countries where electricity access is at best limited, kerosene lanterns provide sufficient light for people who need to see what they’re doing without paying a small fortune for their home to be connected to their country’s national grid. However, as you might expect from anything which uses fuel as harmful as kerosene, it has a profound impact on air quality.
While they’re burning, kerosene lanterns produce black soot, otherwise known as ‘black carbon’. A study recently found that between 7-9% of the total kerosene burned in lanterns enters the atmosphere as black carbon, which has helped to accelerate global warming, despite not being a greenhouse gas. Black carbon is known as ‘particulate air pollution’.

Mercury pollution
Mercury is seen as one of the most harmful chemicals of all to inhale. As it happens, mercury pollution arises from a number of activities which include:
·         Coal-fired power plants/stations – mercury naturally exists in coal
·         Cement kilns – mercury omitted from them comes from coal used to fire the kilns
·         Gold mining – 11.5 tons of mercury are released annually
·         Waste incinerators – collectively, they omit 13.1 tons of mercury into the atmosphere every year
·         Chlor-Alkali plants – mercury is used at these plants to convert material such as salt into chlorine gas and produce plastic, detergent and bleach

Nitrogenous Wastes
In a study from James Cook University in Australia, the unheralded danger of nitrogenous wastes in aquatic environments was raised. Including ammonia, nitrite and nitrate, some of which coming from waste dumped in the sea from human activity, some of it occurs naturally. The impact of nitrogenous waste isn’t quite so harsh on some forms of marine life, but could grow over time.
One of the unforeseen consequences of the build-up of nitrogenous waste is that some marine life that isn’t strong enough to cope or have too much in their environment may end up dying. The farming industry may have concerns about it to, especially if some farms are reliant on water irrigation systems in order to keep their crops healthy.

Smoking cigarettes
This might seem relatively harmless due to the size of a single cigarette, but if millions or even billions are smoked every day, their collective impact can be huge. Smoke emitted from the typical cigarette contains harmful gases such as carbon monoxide, which in large quantities can be extremely poisonous.
When it comes to the environment, the main issues with cigarettes are Air Pollution, Land and Water Pollution, De- Forestation as well as well as general littering and recycling issues. This of course, is before we even begin to consider the myriad of health risks caused by cigarettes to the human body.

Wind turbine production
As crazy as it might seem when producing something to generate green energy, a media story revealed that the construction of magnets for wind turbines in China has caused significant environmental damage. A toxic lake near the city of Baotou in Inner Mongolia has formed as the result of magnets being produced using neodymium, a material which is in abundance there.

The process to extract neodymium is long and drawn out, and a consequence of that is the smoke resulting from the chemicals and acid used to make extraction easier enters the atmosphere, causing severe health problems such as cancer for people living within a short distance of the mines. The extraction of ores such as neodymium is something that has to be cleaned up in the future.

By Jack Cornwall