Pollution & Prevention

Living in central Nebraska, pollution is something that does not pop into your head as a major issue. Around the world, pollution is a global epidemic that is causing multiple problems in many different forms. Pollution has caused problems for the environment and has brought up different health concerns for humans. Last year, there was three million deaths from air pollution around the world alone (Mole). In water pollution, there was up to nine million deaths worldwide. The good news is that there are currently billions of dollars being used toward the efforts to reduce pollution throughout the world.

Air Pollution

One of the most common types of pollution that is brought to everyone’s attention is air pollution. Air pollution is mostly known for the multiple negative effects it has on both the environment and human health. It has been linked to climate change and thinning the ozone layer. Also, air pollution has been proved to lead to many other health defects.

Air pollution is caused by several different factors. Pollution to the air can be caused by industries and factories, power plants, and all forms of transportations that emit toxic chemicals into the air. It came as a surprise to me to find out what the top two causes are. The top two causes of air pollution happen to be pollution from agriculture and the use of small scale energy from our homes (Mole). In agriculture, air pollution comes fumes are released back into the air from the nitrogen-based fertilizer and livestock urine. As for the small scale and home based energy, the pollution develops from people using household fires and other alternative sources for our heating, cooking, and other energy needs.

Toxic air contains several hundred organic compounds. For many years the United States Protection Agency (EPA) has struggled to control and regulate emissions of these toxic compounds (Smith). The toxic chemicals that we are exposed to throughout our everyday lives are from tiny sources. Examples of these tiny sources are people smoking cigarettes, spray cans from paint, cleaning agents, and also even just have your shirts dry cleaned.

Air pollution has proven to play a role in both respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. According to researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), there are 200,000 deaths that occur prematurely because of polluted air. The mixture of air that is usually harmful, and sometimes fatal, is a mixture of carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, and sulfur dioxide. Living closer to areas that release these gases that contain the harmful chemicals can greatly increase your risk for symptoms of diseases. The effects that the chemical gases create are irreversible. The side effects can be low risk like headaches or can be very severe to seizures and even death (National Resource Defense Council 25). talk more about the diseases it causes.

There are studies that are leading to even more discoveries of negative effects that air pollution causes in humans. They are now looking at studies that are showing that exposure speeds up the aging in the brain (Beil). Also, another effect I found that was surprising was that researchers are finding links between obesity and diabetes with air pollution (Beil).

Water Pollution

Water pollution applies to all types of bodies of water: ponds, lakes, rivers, oceans, and even groundwater. A result of water pollution is that one-third of the waterways in the United States do not meet the standards of the Clean Water Act that was instituted in 1972 (Shortle). Although the Clean Water Act has drastically helped clean up our waterways, there are more actions that can be done to help.

Outside of the big cities, agriculture is the biggest source of water pollution. Agriculture is a major contributor to the pollution of the nation’s groundwater, which is something that is especially crucial to Nebraska. Farmers apply fertilizers and animal manure to their cropland to increase fertility. A problem that this causes is runoffs that transport these nutrients into water sources. This runoff is known as a “nonpoint” source of pollution (Shortle). By “nonpoint” it means it is not coming out of a pipe or a point.

Runoffs into water cause damage to the natural environment. Manure from animals carries two severe nutrients known as phosphorus and nitrogen. Research that the National Resources Defense Council has done shows that the excess of these nutrients cause extreme growth of algae that takes oxygen out of the water and kills aquatic life. Site pollution book page 26.

Pollution to water has also caused negative issues for humans. It creates a clean drinking water problem throughout the whole world. Again, agricultural runoff is the leading cause of contamination to drinking water. (Noyes) There are more than four million Americans that are currently living in places where the water is beyond the legal limit for safe drinking water (Noyes). To me, it is very interesting to see how much agriculture is a major factor to pollution throughout the world since agriculture plays such a major role in the midwest and especially in the state of Nebraska.

Pollution Prevention

Pollution prevention and reducing the effects of pollution has came a long ways in a short amount of time. Today it is a main concern, unlike it was 20 to 30 years ago. A way to be able to reduce pollution would be to diversify the energy sources and resort to alternative energy sources.

At our current use of energy, there is enough coal to support the United States for the next 300 years (Giglio Page). There is just 30 to 50 years left at the current rate of oil and natural gas before those are no longer available to us (Giglio Page). While coal may be an easy source of energy, it comes with a major cost to the environment. When Barack Obama came into office, support for zero-carbon coal facilities increased. These facilities would reduce the amount of carbon released into the atmosphere. Carbon is the most abundant greenhouse gas. This would happen by carbon capture and storage. (need to describe the method/process better) In this method the carbon is captured then it is pressurized and stored underground (Giglio Page).

There is one main factor that makes it difficult for us to transition from our traditional, pollution-causing energy sources, like the fossil fuels. The main factor is due to the fact that it is so costly for us to switch over to alternative energy sources (Baker). Fossil fuels are responsible for eighty-percent or more of America’s energy. With new technologies these alternative sources, such as wind energy and solar energy, are becoming more and more affordable. The part that is most attractive about wind and solar energy is that wind is always blowing somewhere and the sun is always shining somewhere.

Wind energy is generated by windmills that have turbines inside that are generated by the wind in order to create electricity. This electricity can be used for home and business electrical needs, which would even help cut down on electrical costs. These windmills can be spotted all throughout the state of Nebraska and throughout the Midwest. The windmills can also be spotted offshore as well. The offshore windmills have plenty of potential, but have had trouble getting as many offshore windmills put up as we have on land. The lengthy Eastern coast with the shallow shores are the best accessible for the offshore windmills.(Fox) The biggest reason that the construction of offshore windmills are important is the where the offshore windmills will be located. They would be much closer to the big cities that are need to start integrating in alternative energy sources.

If you travel to the Southern parts of the United States, you would find solar panels. Solar energy panels are not as common as windmills, but the photovoltaic panels that are used have prices to develop dropping extremely fast. (Grunwald) Now, solar panels are being installed on top of homes and commercial buildings. Doing this isn’t just going to help cut down on pollution, but it will lower electricity bills too.

Since pollution can cause long-term effects, there are some very simple steps to try and protect ourselves from health issues. One of the simplest steps would be getting away from the major cities that emit the most pollution into the air.

Pollution is a problem that affects the United States and the rest of the world, especially in our air and water. It has caused multiple environmental issues and health concerns. There have been drastic measures in legislation to help and improve these issues with pollution. It will take constant vigilance and interventions to help combat pollution in the future.