Pollution: Types, Sources and Characteristics


Pollution was defined as the introduction into the environment of humans and other living organisms. Many human activities pollute our environment, the water we drink, the air we breathe, and the soil in which we grow food.

In this session, we will look at pollution more closely. In this session you will learn about different types and sources of pollution and the various human activities that can cause pollution. We will also describe the ways in which pollution can affect different areas of the environment: water, air and soil.  This session describes some of the major effects of pollution on the environment and human health. It also discusses options for pollution prevention and control.

Outcomes of this Study Session : Types of pollution

After studied this, you will be able to:

  • 1.1  What is pollution?
  • 1.2 Exlpain the main types of pollution.
  • 1.3 Exlpain the sources of pollution and how to reach the environment
  • 1.4 Exlpain the main characteristics or reason of water, air and soil pollution

1.1  What is pollution?

If you hold a glass of water in front of you, how can you tell if it is contaminated? You would expect the drinking water to be colorless, odorless, and transparent (not tight with suspended particles). If not all of these things, then it could be contaminated. If you are looking at water in a stream, it may not be as clear as drinking water in a glass, but you can estimate that if you observe that the water does not look dirty or smelly. You can also see that the animals were drinking water without any effect and the fish were swimming in it. However, if the water was dyed or someone had an unpleasant odor, or you could see a dead fish floating on the surface, you might conclude that pollution is the problem.

Let us consider the human activities that can cause pollution. Imagine a stream that flows from an area of ​​land on the edge of a city. Water is also used by the community for drinking and other domestic use and in vegetable farming. Many residents use this water to irrigate small areas of the land where they grow vegetables and many farmers use fertilizers and pesticides to improve yields (Figure 1.1). Fertilizers are made up of chemicals such as nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus, which are essential nutrients of plants. Pesticides are chemicals that eliminate pests but can be harmful to other types of life.

Farmers use fertilizers and pesticides on their vegetable crops to improve yields. Figure 1.1

Imagine that a farmer has finished spreading chemicals on his crop and has decided to wash the empty pesticide sack used in the river. After that day, it is raining heavily and the rain water flows from the field to the river. What do you think? The river contains chemicals from fertilizers and pesticides that were applied to crops, causing the farmer to wash his sack, which contained pesticides. It can damage fish and other living organisms in the water. The river also uses the community, so chemicals can enter the drinking water that humans consume. Due to the reckless process of the farmer washing his sack and the rain water, the river has been contaminated with chemicals.

Pollution is always a source and a recipient. The source is where the pollution comes from, i.e. from where the pollution is released into the environment. The recipient is where the pollution ends, which can be a part of the environment or people or animals that become contaminated or damaged.

Question: In the above example about the farmer washing the pest in the river, what is the source and what is the recipient of the pollution?

Answer: The source of pollution is the activity of urban agriculture with the washing of pesticides and fertilizers and sacks so that pollutants can go into the river. In this example, the primary recipient is the aquatic body that receives the pollution. Other recipients are people who drink contaminated water and are affected by animals such as fish.

There are several ways to detect pollution. These include detecting signs of aquatic plants and animals (such as dead fish), finding chemicals in the water, comparing the previous history of water quality with current standards, and receiving complaints from water users. Included. Even when a problem is detected, investigating the source can take time. For example, water samples from a number of different locations will need to be analyzed to find out exactly where the problem was and why the problem occurred.

There are several different ways to classify pollutants. They can be categorized by their physical nature, their source, the recipient and the affected environment. In the following sections we will look at each of these rating groups.

1.2 Types of pollution

Pollution can be in the form of gas, liquid, solid and energy.

Question: What can you think about polluting gases?

Answer: Liquid pollutants usually come from liquid waste. Liquid waste includes human excretion (both urine and urine), industrial wastewater, and other types of waste from water use activities (Figure 7.2). Factories produce liquid waste from washing, cleaning, and chemical mixing activities in the manufacturing process. Sewage is a mixture of toilet-drained toilets and other human-caused emissions from homes and other wastewater from businesses. Septic drains and human waste are often sources of effluent from septic tanks and litters.

Figure 7.2 Car wash produces engine oil and fuel contaminated water, which can flow into rivers and lakes.


Urban runoff is another type of liquid waste that can cause pollution. Rainwater washes various levels of waste from the ground level into lakes and rivers. Urban runout can include a lot of organic matter. This can be due to open or inadequate handling of organic waste generated from homes and businesses. Organic matter contains everything that comes from living organisms, such as waste from humans and animals, waste from plants and food.

Pollution also comes in solid form. Plastic bags are one of the common solid waste. Solid waste is any solid material that is assumed to not be useful and therefore thrown away. Factories, businesses, and households produce a variety of solid wastes, such as paper, plastics, metals, chemicals in solid form, clothing pieces or food animals and remains (Figure 7.3). At times you may have noticed a discharge erupting with solid waste, which adds to the anxiety.

Figure 1.3 Solid waste is a notorious problem in many towns.

There is a fourth type of pollution that is common in urban societies. It is energy in the form of sound pollution. Noise pollution means unacceptable levels of noise at work, residential and leisure. Noise makes it difficult to communicate and even upset and upset and can damage our hearing in the long run. Music is a popular source of loud noises from music shops and clubs in the urban community. This kind of noise may make some happy, but it upsets many others because it interrupts communication during the day and sleep at night.

1.3 Sources of pollution

Another way to classify pollution is from the human activity field that produces it. Before we look at the different fields, one important distinction must be made regarding the sources of pollution. Pollution sources can be categorized as point or non-point sources. Point sources are identifiable points or places that you can easily find. An example of this is a diesel truck that produces blacklist smoke from its tail. Liquid waste flowing from a pipe into a stream is another example (Figure 1.4). A non-point source (also known as “diffuse pollution”) is where the origin of the pollution is difficult to identify. An excellent example of this is flood water that wastes all kinds of waste (possibly including gastrointestinal) into a stream. In this situation you cannot identify the individual or household or the establishment from which the water pollution has spread (Figure 1.5).




Figure 1.4 Point Source: Liquid waste enters a small stream.
Figure 1.5 Non-point source: Solid waste and sediment are distributed along the river so that no single source is identified.

Question: Can you think of examples of point and non-point pollution at the beginning of this study session?

Answer: The farmer who is washing his sack is an example of a point source because you can identify where he has washed his sack. However, washing pesticides from the field is an example of a non-point source. Many pollution sites wash in the river, and may even come from other farms. This is an example of how difficult it can be to sometimes identify the source.

1.4 Main characteristics or reason of water, air and soil pollution

We said earlier that pollution is always a source and a recipient. The way a pollution moves through the source of the pollution, enters the environment, and how it eventually reaches the human body or other recipient. Depending on the type of pollution and the path between the source and the recipient can take many different forms. The main recipients of pollution are water, air and soil. Contaminated people usually reach humans by inhaling contaminated and polluted water and food use and polluted air.

Once in the environment, the worst effects of many pollutants are reduced to one or more of the following:

Dispersion – Smoke spreads in the air and is no longer visible from the source.
Pressure – Soluble pollution dilutes in a river or lake water.
Deposits – Some suspended solids move into the river bed (settled).
Diffusion – Some substances are broken down by natural processes (degraded) into different, easier substances that do not produce pollution.

In each case, the effect is to reduce the concentration of pollution. Concentration is a measure of the amount of substance in a known volume of water or air. Units used for water contamination usually contain milligrams per milligram (mg / L, also referred to as milligram L-1), though sometimes you may see PPM, which means ‘Parts per million’.

These processes do not apply to all pollutants. There are some permanent pollutants that persist when released into the environment because they do not break down from the natural process. This is studied in Season 8.

Summary Types Of Pollution

In this Study Session, you have learned :

  • Environmental pollution is the result of human activity and development that occurs when physical, biological and chemical agents are released into the environment in such quantities that pollution adversely affects human health and damages the environment.
  • Pollution can be classified by its physical nature, its source, its recipient, the affected area or its effects.
  • Pollution can be in the form of gas, liquid, solid or energy.
  • The sources of pollution can be point sources, which can be easily identified, or non-point sources, where pollution comes from diffuse sources that are not easy to identify.
  • There are different types of pollution: water pollution, air pollution, solid waste pollution and noise pollution. All of this can be found in urban areas.
  • The main sources of pollution are domestic activities, factories, agriculture and transport.
  • Once they are released into the environment, their numbers are reduced by some pollution, weakening, accumulation or collapse.
  • Physical contamination (solid material), biological contamination (such as germs that cause water-borne diseases), and many different chemicals can be contaminated with water.
  • Air pollution can be caused by gases or solid particles.
  • Soil pollution is linked to groundwater pollution. Solid waste can produce highly pollutant pollutants that pollute the groundwater.

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