7 Types Of Environmental Pollution

The issue of environmental pollution is complex and of global concern. In this article, we will be looking at the 7 major types of environmental pollution.

Air pollution, water pollution, land pollution, noise pollution, nuclear pollution, light pollution, heat pollution are all types of environmental pollution.  A lot of efforts have been made over recent years to clean up the environment. However, environmental pollution remains a major problem in underdeveloped, developing, and developed countries and in rural and urban communities. Environmental pollution poses continuing risks to health. Its transboundary nature makes it even more difficult to manage.

The problems are undoubtedly greatest in the developing world than in developed countries. This could be a result of poor and non-sustainable technologies adopted in these countries. This does not excuse the fact that all these types of environmental pollution; especially those caused by industrialization started first in the developed countries. Over the years, they have been able to minimize pollution resulting from industrialization because of their advancement in research and technology.

Environmental pollution is the release or introduction of substances or agents that damage the environment and its components.

Environmental pollution can be defined as the presence of substances in levels that are toxic or potentially damaging to the environment. An environmental pollution is a form of environmental degradation. Pollutants are those materials or substances that cause various types of environmental pollution. Pollutants take many forms. They include not only chemicals but also organisms and biological materials, as well as energy in its various forms (e.g. noise, radiation, heat).

Environmental pollution is also the introduction of contaminants into the environment that cause harm or discomfort to humans, other living organisms, and the environment as a whole.

Environmental pollutants can be naturally occurring substances or energies but are considered contaminants when above natural levels.

Environmental pollution takes place when the environment cannot process on time or has exceeded its natural ability to handle toxic substances released as a result of human activities. without any structural or functional damage to its system. On the other hand, the environment becomes polluted if humans do not know how to decompose these pollutants artificially. Pollutants can persist for many years during which nature will attempt to decompose them. in worst cases, it may take as long as thousands of years before they can be completely decomposed naturally.

Sources of pollution include but are not limited to industrial emissions, poor sanitary facilities, improper waste management, combustion of fossil fuels, untreated effluents, landfills, pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, and other chemicals from agricultural activities, natural disasters such as volcanoes, et.

7 Types of Environmental Pollution

There are three major types of environmental pollution. This classification is based on the component of the environment being polluted. The three main types of environmental pollution are air pollution, water pollution, and land/soil pollution. Others include thermal/heat pollution, radioactive pollution, light pollution, and noise pollution.

  • Air Pollution
  • Water Pollution
  • Land Pollution (soil pollution)
  • Noise Pollution
  • Light pollution
  • Radioactive/ Nuclear Pollution
  • Thermal Pollution

1. Air/Atmospheric Pollution

Air pollution is the release of harmful or toxic substances into the environment which contaminate the air and the atmosphere as a whole.

The atmosphere is made up of a mixture of gases generally referred to as air. These gases are Nitrogen, Oxygen, Argon Carbon IV oxide, Methane, Water vapor, and Neon,  When there is an increase or a decrease in the levels of any of these gaseous components or the introduction of foreign gases, solids, and liquids into the atmosphere, the air can be described as polluted.

Common air pollutants are sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, ozone, volatile organic compounds, particulate matter, smoke, airborne particles, radioactive pollutants.

Effects of air pollution are formation of photochemical smog, formation of aerosols, depletion of the ozone layer and enhanced greenhouse gas effects and heath issues.

Photochemical Smog is formed when hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides react in the presence of sunlight. It forms a yellowish-brown haze which causes poor visibility and many respiratory disorders and allergies as it contains polluting gases.

The ozone layer is found in the stratospheric region of the atmosphere. It absorbs the harmful  Ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun and protects life on earth from the harmful effects of the UV rays.

However, hydrocarbons such as the chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) form holes in the ozone layer by reacting with ozone in the stratosphere. The holes formed allow direct penetration of UV rays into the troposphere. These rays are carcinogenic. Their effects are visible in the countries such as Australia and New Zealand where the rate of skin cancer is higher than the other regions of the world.

Aerosols are solids or liquids dispersed in a gaseous medium.  Aerosols in the atmosphere are formed by pollutant particulate matter like carbon particles. They form a thick layer in the troposphere that blocks solar radiation, prevents photosynthesis, and changes weather conditions.

Enhanced greenhouse gas effect results for the presence of excess greenhouse gases (CO2, NOx, SOx CH4, and CFCs) in the troposphere. This increases the temperature of the earth’s surface.

The health effects of air pollution are, cancers, respiratory illnesses, cardiovascular disease. According to a study published in the journal of Environmental Research Letters, air pollution is responsible for the death of over 2 million people each year.

If not controlled, air pollution results in diseases, allergies, or death. It is directly related to the greenhouse effect & global warming.

2. Water Pollution

This is the introduction of contaminants into water bodies such as lakes, streams, rivers, oceans, groundwater, etc. Water is the second most polluted environmental resource after the air.

Activities that lead to water pollution are disposal of solid waste into water bodies, discharge of untreated effluent, hot water discharge, runoff from irrigation sites, among others.

Water pollutants include insecticides and herbicides, micro organisms, heavy metals, food processing waste, pollutants from livestock operations, volatile organic compounds, leachates, effluent, grey water, black water, chemical waste and others.

Nutrient pollution, also called eutrophication, is an aspect of water pollution where nutrients, such as nitrogen, are added into bodies of water. These nutrients cause the excessive growth of algae to the extent that the algae consume all dissolved oxygen in the water. When the oxygen becomes exhausted, the algae die and the water begins to smell.

The algae also prevent light penetration into water bodies. This creates an anaerobic environment that causes the death of aquatic organisms. The decomposition of these organisms reduces the oxygen level in water bodies.

When these contaminants enter a water body from a single identifiable source, they are referred to as point source pollutants.  If the water is polluted as a result of the cumulative effects of different amounts of pollutants, non-point pollution has taken place. Groundwater pollution occurs through infiltration and affects groundwater sources such as wells or aquifers.

Shortage of potable water, contaminated food chain, loss of aquatic life and increase in water-borne diseases such as cholera, diarrhea, typhoid etc. are all effects of water pollution.

3. Land Pollution (soil pollution)

Land pollution is a reduction  or decline in the quality of the earth’s land surfaces in terms of use, landscape, and ability to support life forms.

Soil Pollution takes place there is a large number of toxic chemicals, pollutants, or impurities in the soil.

Improper solid waste disposal is a major cause of land pollution. These wastes do not only contaminate the soil but find their way into surface waters through runoff and groundwater as leachates. A high or low pH value changed chemical composition, loss of nutrients, presence of chemicals, fertilizers, pesticide, herbicides, etc. are the indicators of soil pollution.

Other causes include massive cutting of trees, agricultural waste, earthquakes, volcanoes, floods, mineral exploitation, improper waste disposal, accidental oil spills, acid rain, construction activities, etc.

Effects of land or soil pollution include change in soil structure, biodiversity loss,  poor soil quality and loss of arable land, contaminated food chain, general health crisis, etc.

4. Noise Pollution

Noise pollution has been acknowledged as a type of environmental pollution since the industrial age. It is the presence of noise in the environment at levels that are destructive to human health and the health of other organisms existing in that environment. Noise pollution affects body balance. We are exposed to high sound levels throughout the day, at home, work places, schools, hospitals, markets, parks ,streets   and other public places.

Noise level is measured in decibels (dB). The World Health Organization (WHO) set industrially acceptable noise levels at 75 dB. Noise levels of 90 dB cause auditory weakness. Exposure to noise levels beyond 100 dB can cause permanent hearing loss

Noise pollution is the leading cause of hearing loss in children and adults. Construction, transport, and daily human activities all play a role in generating noise.

Common sources of outdoor noise are machines, motor vehicle engines, aircraft, and trains, explosions, construction activities, and music performances.

Effects of noise pollution include tinnitus, hearing loss, sleep disturbances, hypertension, high-stress levels, uneasiness, heart attack, stroke, poor performance, and speech interference

5. Light pollution

It might be astonishing to know that light is also a source of environmental pollution.

The major natural sources of light are the luminous sun and stars and the non-luminous moon. These bodies give light during the day and at night.

As part of technological advancement, humans have created electricity. The presence of uninterrupted electricity has become a yardstick used in measuring the level of development of an area.

Most people can’t imagine living without the modern convenience of electric lights. In big cities, it is almost impossible to see the stars and galaxies.

Light pollution is the presence of excessive artificial lights, such that they result in the brightening of the skies at night.

The negative effect of light pollution areas follows:

  • Indoor light pollution cause glare effect.
  • It can cause an inability to sleep.
  • Outdoor light pollution confuses nocturnal organisms.
  • Outdoor light pollution leads to unnatural occurrences such as birds singing at odd hours.
  • Light pollution alters plant flowering and development patterns.
  • Light pollution, called sky glow, also makes it difficult for astronomers, both professional and amateur, to properly see the stars.
  • According to a study by the American Geophysical Union, light pollution could also be making smog worse by destroying nitrate radicals that helps the dispersion of smog.

6. Radioactive/Nuclear Pollution

An example of radioactive pollution is the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster of 2011 and the Chernobyl disaster of 1986 Attempt to generate electricity through the fission of radioactive materials, uranium, and plutonium led to nuclear power plant accidents, which resulted in the release of toxic chemicals and radiation into the environment

Radioactive pollution is the release of harmful radioactive materials into the environment.

Sources of radioactive pollution can be natural or man-made. This emission can come from nuclear power plants, cosmic rays earth crust, nuclear tests, mining,  nuclear weapons, hospitals, accidental spill of radioactive chemicals, factories or radioactive wastes.

Nuclear tests are the main human cause of radioactive pollution. Natural emissions usually have low energy levels and are not harmful. Human activities like mining bring radioactive materials beneath the earth to the surface.

Radioactive radiation does not happen frequently but is very dangerous. They are carcinogenic and cause mutation of genetic materials.

7. Thermal Pollution

Thermal pollution is the sudden increase in the temperature of the ocean, lake, river, sea, or pond. This can be as a result of human activities such as discharge of industrial steam into water bodies, Discharge from stormwater runoff at elevated temperatures, and release from reservoirs with unnaturally cold temperatures are other causes of thermal pollution.

Thermal pollution reduces the level of dissolved oxygen in the aquatic environment, alters the temperature of this environment, and causes the death of aquatic organisms


How many types of environmental pollution are there?

There is no fixed number or classification of environmental pollution. As human activities that pollute the environment increase, more types of pollution arise.


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