Pollution Notes from Specification

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  • Created by: MrsStark
  • Created on: 18-05-15 15:20
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A pollutant is energy or matter, which is released into the environment with a potential to
cause adverse changes to an ecosystem. The properties of pollutants can affect the way
they effect the environment around them:
· State of Matter whether the pollutant is in solid, liquid or gas form. This affects
the dispersal of the pollutant and can also increase or decrease the toxicity of the
· Density affects dispersal and can make cleanup either easier or more difficult.
· Sources can either be a point source or a diffuse source. A point source only
release pollutants from a definite place with a definite effect like oil spills. Diffuse
sources release pollutants from many sources with many impacts like car
· Persistence/Degradability the time before the pollutant no longer affects the
· Toxicity the effect the pollutant has in the body like inhibition of enzymes, some
can damage the nervous system or other organs.
· Chemical Reactivity chemicals which are very reactive do not last long in the
environment as they very quickly react and can become neutral or react to make a
secondary pollutant.
· Solubility pollutants can dissolve in either water or lipids, high solubility can
make chemicals more likely to have an affect on an organism as they are more
likely to be absorbed by the body. However, solubility can also decrease the
toxicity as the chemicals become more dilute.
· Mobility the ability of the pollutant to disperse into otter environments.
· Bioaccumulation the progressive accumulation of chemicals in organisms, it
occurs when an organism ingests a substance at a higher rate than the substance is
being removed.
· Biomagnification the build up of chemical substances along a food chain so the
highest amount of pollutant is found in the organism highest in the food chain.
· Mutagenic Action the ability of a substance to cause mutations in the DNA of an
· Carcinogenic Action the ability of a substance to cause cancers in an organism.
· Teratogenic Action the ability of a substance to cause birth abnormalities.
The Behaviour of Pollutants in the Environment:
All pollutants have sources, pathways and sinks and all the properties of that pollutant
affect its dispersal and its persistence. Environmental monitoring using indicator species
or manmade equipment helps to detect any changes in the environment and it can also be
used to detect and quantify pollutants. A Critical Pathway Analysis can be used to predict
the movement and spread of pollutants and helps to build monitoring programmes.
Direct and Indirect effects:
Direct effect pollutants cause harm to organisms directly by contact or ingestion while
indirect effect cause harm by causing changes to the environment (decrease food
supply/shelter). There are also acute and chronic effects acute are temporary and happen
over a short period of time while chronic occur over a long time.

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Atmospheric Pollution:
Acid Rain:
The major causes of acid rain are the release of SOx and NOx gases into the atmosphere
from the combustion of fossil fuels, other gases like ozone can also enhance the acidic
Acid rain affects both nonliving and living organisms. It can cause corrosion on
building stones and metals. The effect on the living is much more serious as it can cause:
· Phytotoxicity inhibits the growth of plants. Especially affects stomata, plant root
hair cells.…read more

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Smoke can increase the albedo effect of the atmosphere and therefore decrease the
amount of heat reaching the surface climatic cooling. Smoke in the stratosphere can also
deplete the `good' ozone.…read more

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Photochemical Smogs:
These are made when the emissions of vehicle exhausts react with sunlight. Nitrogen gas
does not usually react with oxygen gas, however at high temperatures they react to
produce a different range of NOx gases. NO2 is very toxic at high concentrations but
these are very unlikely to be reached in open air, however in sunny conditions and the
presence of hydrocarbon vapours, NO2 can be converted into much more dangerous
chemicals such as PANs (peroxyacetylnitrates).…read more

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The main causes of oil pollution are:
· Vehicle engine lubrication oil leaking or deliberately being released into the
· Industrial machine oil being washed into drains or mixed with other effluents.
· After ship tankers being washed to prevent the build up of tar, the washings can
be dumped in the sea.
· Accidental oil spills from tankers, oil refineries, storage facilities or from
· Leakage during exploitation (drilling, purifying).…read more

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Inorganic Nutrient Pollution (Nitrates):
Mainly caused by run off of fertiliser into water bodies where it can cause eutrophication.
Or can also cause bluebaby syndrome in humans where babies slowly became a shade of
blue as nitrates where inhibiting take up of oxygen. The release of nitrates into the
environment can be controlled by carrying out farming methods which reduce leaching or
by slowrelease fertilisers.
Inorganic Nutrient Pollution (Phosphates):
Also caused by fertiliser run off, also caused by sewage leakage or by silage fluids.…read more

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Noise Pollution:
Noise pollution can have damaging effects on organisms, some may include deafness,
nervous disorder or behavioural changes. It can also affect breeding or migration of
animals. Noise vibrations can cause acoustic fatigue on building which can eventually
turn into cracks and cause structural damage.
· Road vehicle Noise noise made by car traffic (engines), can be reduced by
improving vehicle design, decreasing use of cars, rerouting of roads to prevent
high noise in populated areas or by the use of quitter engines.…read more

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Composition of the waste which relates to bulk and mobility.
· Degradability.
· Flammability.
· Radioactivity.
· Toxicity.
Due to the rising affluence of the population, people are more able to afford to buy more
products and therefore they throw away more waste like packaging. Up to now waste has
been disposed off by using landfill sites and landraising which is cheap and requires
little or no treatment of the waste itself.…read more


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