Waste management is the process of managing and collecting waste from households and businesses. Waste is classified into three categories; Solid waste, liquid waste, and gaseous waste.
The impact of waste on environment and human health is experienced in each of these three classifications if it is not properly handled and disposed of as supposed.
Hence proper Waste disposal is vital to curb the impact of waste on the environment. Without waste disposal, the massive production industries produce too much and quickly destroy the environment.
This is apparent when we consider how improper waste disposal affects the environment and human health. For the sake of this article, we’re going to look at the impacts of waste on the environment and human health.
The impact certain types of waste have on the environment and human health depends on their chemical composition and how they are managed.
The inadequate management of chemical waste can contaminate drinking water and air quality which is known to significantly impact human health and the environment.
Other forms of harmful waste for the environment are hazardous waste and municipal solid waste. Hazardous waste is created by corrosive, radioactive, toxic, or flammable products.
As hazardous waste has highly negative consequences for human health and the environment when in contact with land, water, or air, this type of waste is strictly regulated by the government.
Although data do not exist to directly link trends in waste with effects on human health and the environment, the management of waste may result in waste and chemicals in waste entering the environment.
The impacts of waste on the environment and human health are seen discussed below.
Table of Contents
12 Impact of Waste on Environment and Human Health
- Impact on Air Quality
- Impact on Water Quality
- Global Warming
- Increase of Disease Vectors
- Land Pollution
- Impact on Wildlife and Marine Life
- Climate Change
- Extreme Weather
- Loss of Habitats
- Decrease in Biodiversity
- Groundwater Contamination
- Human Impact
1. Impact on Air Quality
One of the primary environmental health concerns related to waste is air quality. When waste is burned or processed in an incinerator, it produces toxic particles, including carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, and sulfur dioxide.
These particles can cause respiratory problems in people who are nearby and can also lead to chronic lung diseases such as asthma.
Also in areas where we have landfills, air pollution is encountered as a result of the odour from the landfill. People living near landfills may inhale pollutants and toxins like hydrogen sulfide (H2S) emitted from the landfill site.
2. Impact on Water Quality
Water quality is also affected by solid and liquid waste. When wastes are disposed of in landfills, dumped in rivers and lakes, or untreated effluent (wastewater) discharges from nearby industries and companies, hazardous chemicals and heavy metals from these wastes break down in the water bodies and contaminate the water, thereby choking out the life that the water hosts.
This process raises the toxicity of the water, making freshwater unsafe for human consumption and the body of water toxic for those swimming in the water.
This pollution can lead to different health problems such as cancer cholera, diarrhea, dysentery, and birth defects. Moreover, it can damage ecosystems and disrupt the natural cycles that sustain life.
3. Global Warming
Waste landfills are the third-largest source of human-related methane emissions. Emissions of methane are extremely damaging to the environment, and methane is one of several non-CO2 gases that contribute to global warming.
Methane gas is released into the atmosphere when man-made waste decomposes, and emissions are a function of the total amount and makeup of the waste as well as management facility location, design, and practices.
Practices that help in reducing those emissions are recycling and changing product use. For example, increased recycling of municipal solid waste reduces the amount of waste sent to landfills while also conserving natural resources (e.g., timber, water, and minerals) and preventing pollution by reducing the need to collect new raw materials.
4. Increase of Disease Vectors
There are several harmful impacts of waste. For example, unattended waste on the roads can become the breeding ground for mosquitoes, cockroaches, and rats.
These rodents are known for spreading diseases such as malaria and dengue and causing food poisoning as well. Thus, improper waste disposal and littering can cause disease-carrying pests to affect public health on a large scale.
5. Land Pollution
Land pollution happens whenever waste ends up on soil or other land that people should process instead. This garbage doesn’t just sit there; the contents break down, whether by rotting or time,e and seep into the area around it.
This means the dirt and all surrounding areas absorb the pollution and become dangerous for people and animals.
6. Impact on Wildlife and Marine Life
Ecosystems vary widely from location to location. Besides health hazards for humans and plants, improper waste disposal affects land animals and marine life too.
Sea animals such as sea turtles, fish, etc. that consume polluted drinking water or cows that feed on solid waste on the streets are in danger of acquiring different types of diseases, which most times lead to death.
The landfill sites also pose a risk to animal life. As for marine life, pollution of water bodies due to waste can disturb the balance of the aquatic ecosystem, leading to the death of marine animals and probably causing direct extinction of these species and hence permanent damage to the global ecosystems.
It is important to note that when it comes to biodiversity, our waste problem is severely plaguing the health of the world’s species.
7. Climate Change
The way our society disposes of waste is not only extremely troubling but has become increasingly irresponsible as well. A huge issue that comes from all forms of pollution is the contribution and impact it has on the global climate.
Waste contributes to the release of gases such as methane and carbon dioxide. Carbon monoxide, Nitrous Oxide, etc. These thicken the ozone layer and, in turn, worsen the weather and melt the ice caps, raising the sea level and negatively impacting natural habitats and the homes of billions of people.
8. Extreme Weather
Climate change which is a result of waste has also caused a gradual increase in the frequency of extreme weather and natural disasters. Due to climate change, there has been a noticeable increase in disasters like tornadoes and floods. Even the presence of hurricanes has become more prevalent because of climate change.
9. Loss of Habitats
Every animal has a range of environments it can survive in. This is why you only see specific species in certain locations. However, waste contributes to global climate change, which changes the size of the habitats animals need to survive.
A decreasing habitat size drives species like polar bears to extinction as they attempt migrations out of the areas.
10. Decrease in Biodiversity
The extinction of species and deaths of crops means the biodiversity across the world is slowly decreasing. This is bad for the health of nature, as lower biodiversity increases the chances of complete extinction during a disaster.
With fewer different species, diseases have an easier time traveling, leaving fewer species that can survive environmental changes.
11. Groundwater Contamination
Carelessly disposed of waste contaminates sources of surface and groundwater. Waste causes drain jams in metropolitan areas, which results in stagnant water that encourages bug breeding and floods during rainy seasons. Uncontrolled burning of waste and inappropriate incineration has a significant impact on urban air pollution.
Organic waste decomposition in landfills produces greenhouse gases, and untreated leachate contaminates nearby soil and water sources.
12. Human Impact
Beyond the environmental impact created by improperly managed waste, it’s easy to see how it also impacts human health. Improper waste disposal poses a great risk to public health. Direct or indirect contact waste can cause different types of infections and chronic ailments.
However, the health effects of waste depend on the type of waste, how it is handled, and the way the hazardous chemical enters the body.
Some hazardous chemicals absorb rapidly through the skin, while others don’t at all. The toxicity of a chemical also determines its effect on the body.
Many hazardous chemicals are toxic in very small amounts, whereas others can have large volumes of exposure before there is a reaction.
Having hazardous chemicals in the human body causes adverse reactions in fetuses, children, adolescents, adults, and the elderly, but the reaction each may have varies.
A fetus and young child are more susceptible to adverse reactions than an adult because their developing organs may be permanently damaged. Acute exposure to lead from contaminated soil, air, and water can cause the following adverse health effects:
- Behavior abnormalities
- Brain damage in children.
- Skin Irritation
- Blood Infections
- Physiological malfunctions (e.g., kidney failure, reproductive impairment)
- Genetic mutations
- Physical deformations
- Birth defects
Experts point out that children are most vulnerable to pollutants
The environment and human health are at risk due to our lack of environmental awareness and action. If our society continues to produce large amounts of trash without proper disposal, it will be the downfall of humanity, wildlife, and ecosystem well-being.
We cannot prevent or promote longevity if humankind does not adopt sustainable behaviors toward our Earth. If emissions from waste disposal continue to increase, the climate will not only be negatively impacted but human health as well.
These issues will continue to increase if environmental action is not established shortly. Therefore, there is a need for proper waste management in its different categories and types. This will help to reduce the amount of garbage that needs to be disposed of and it will also help to protect the environment and human health.
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Ahamefula Ascension is a Real Estate Consultant, Data Analyst, and Content writer. He is the founder of Hope Ablaze Foundation and a Graduate of Environmental Management in one of the prestigious colleges in the country. He is obsessed with Reading, Research and Writing.