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Pollution facts for kids

Kids Encyclopedia Facts
The litter problem on the coast of Guyana, 2010
Air pollution in the US, 1973
Smog Pollution in Taiwan
The Lachine Canal in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

Pollution is when something is added to the environment that is harmful or poisonous to living things. There are four main types of pollution: air, water, noise, and soil or land pollution. Smoke or dust in the air is a type of pollution because it is bad for the lungs when we breathe in. Sewage in drinking water is another type of pollution. It can make people ill because it contains germs and viruses. People living next to a building site where there is too much noise can become sick because of a lack of sleep. Dangerous chemicals can seep into soil from litter and other man-made chemicals.

As pollution grows, ways to combat it have grown, too. Solar energy and wind energy give people other ways to power their homes. When people use these alternative forms of energy, they put less carbon dioxide into the environment.

Air pollution

Air pollution is caused by poisonous gases, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, and very small particulates. It is also caused by the smoke and harmful gases released by the fires that make vehicles and factories go. Use of coal, wood, and kerosene as fuels for fire also causes air pollution. Air pollution may cause breathing problems such as asthma or other health problems. It also causes diseases like cancer.

Air pollution causes global warming and acid rain. It results in increased temperatures, erratic rains, and drought worldwide. This makes it difficult for living organisms to survive.

Water pollution

Water pollution is the presence of harmful materials in water, such as sewage, dissolved metals, waste from farms or factories, and crude oil spilled from oil tankers. The three main substances that pollute water are nitrates from fertilizers, sewage, and detergents.

Activities such as bathing and washing clothes near lakes, ponds, or rivers add nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorous into water. This leads to the growth of too much algae on the surface of the water. This algae blocks the penetration of sunlight and air into the water.

Pollution causes harm to organisms living in water and can also harm people's health. In extreme cases, it may cause problems such as cancer.

Noise pollution

Noise pollution, also known as sound pollution, is noise that is harmful to humans and animals. This includes the sound of vehicles, loudspeakers, etc. Noise pollution can cause ear problems or even permanent deafness, especially in older people.

Soil pollution or land pollution

Soil pollution (also known as land pollution) is when man-made chemicals, such as hydrocarbons, heavy metals, or solvents get into the soil. These chemicals come from industrial activities and poor waste management. Soil pollution may cause health risks. The chemicals can produce harmful vapors, or they can contaminate water supplies underneath the polluted soil.

Plastic pollution

Plastic pollution is the collection of plastic products in the environment that negatively affects wildlife, wildlife habitat, or humans.


Human health

Health effects of pollution
Overview of main health effects on humans from some common types of pollution.

Bad air quality can kill many organisms, including humans. Ozone pollution can cause respiratory disease, cardiovascular disease, throat inflammation, chest pain, and congestion. A 2010 analysis estimated that 1.2 million people died prematurely each year in China because of air pollution. The high smog levels China has been facing for a long time can do damage to civilians' bodies and cause diseases. The WHO estimated in 2007 that air pollution causes half a million deaths per year in India. Studies have estimated that the number of people killed each year in the United States could be over 50,000.

Water pollution causes approximately 14,000 deaths per day, mostly in developing countries. In these countries, water is contaminated by untreated sewage. An estimated 500 million Indians have no access to a proper toilet. Over ten million people in India fell ill with waterborne illnesses in 2013, and 1,535 people died, most of them children. Nearly 500 million Chinese do not have access to safe drinking water.

Oil spills can cause skin irritations and rashes.

Noise pollution can cause hearing loss, high blood pressure, stress, and sleep disturbance.

The ingestion of Mercury has been linked to developmental deficits in children and neurologic symptoms.

Older people are exposed to diseases induced by air pollution. Those with heart or lung disorders are at additional risk. Children and infants are also at serious risk. Lead and other heavy metals have been shown to cause neurological problems. Chemical and radioactive substances can cause cancer and as well as birth defects.

An October 2017 study by the Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health found that global pollution, specifically toxic air, water, soils, and workplaces, kill nine million people annually.


Pollution is present widely in the environment. There are several effects of this:

Pollution control

Litter trap
A litter trap catches floating waste in the Yarra River, east-central Victoria, Australia.
Air pollution control system, known as a Thermal oxidizer, decomposes hazardous gases from industrial air streams at a factory in the United States of America.
Dust collector kosovo
A dust collector in Pristina, Kosovo
Vapor Recovery Device
Gas nozzle with vapor recovery
PollutionCheck Banner
A Mobile Pollution Check Vehicle in India

Pollution control is a term used in environmental management. It means the control of emissions and effluents into air, water, or soil. Without pollution control, the waste products from overconsumption, heating, agriculture, mining, manufacturing, transportation, and other human activities could degrade the environment. It is believed that pollution prevention and waste minimization are better than pollution control.


Pollution control devices

  • Air pollution control
    • Thermal oxidizer
  • Dust collection systems
  • Scrubbers
    • Baffle spray scrubber
    • Cyclonic spray scrubber
    • Ejector venturi scrubber
    • Mechanically aided scrubber
    • Spray tower
    • Wet scrubber
  • Sewage treatment
    • Sedimentation (Primary treatment)
    • Activated sludge biotreaters (Secondary treatment; also used for industrial wastewater)
    • Aerated lagoons
    • Constructed wetlands (also used for urban runoff)
  • Industrial wastewater treatment
    • API oil-water separators
    • Biofilters
    • Dissolved air flotation (DAF)
    • Powdered activated carbon treatment
    • Ultrafiltration
  • Vapor recovery systems
  • Phytoremediation

Interesting facts about pollution

  • Cleanups can save animals’ lives and discourage people from littering in the future.
  • People who live in places with high levels of air pollutants have a 20% higher risk of death from lung cancer than people who live in less polluted areas.
  • Plants can filter air pollution.
  • There are more than 73 kinds of pesticides in groundwater that is used as drinking water.
  • Approximately 40% of the lakes in America are too polluted for fishing, aquatic life, or swimming.
  • In 1975, the National Academy of Sciences estimated that cargo ships and cruise liners had dumped 14 billion pounds of garbage into the ocean.
  • Homeowners use chemicals that are 10 times more toxic per acre than the amount used by the farmers.
  • In the U.S., 41% of all insecticides are used on corn. Eighty percent of these are used to treat a pest that could be controlled simply by rotating the corn for one year with any other crop.
  • Americans buy more than 29 million bottles of water every year. Only 13% of these bottles are recycled every year.
  • Recycling and compostng have become more popular. They prevented 85 million tons of material away from being disposed of in 2010, up from 18 million tons in 1980.
  • Noise pollution is the most ignored type of pollution.

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See also

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