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Pollution And Its Impact On Earth’s Inhabitants

Vivian D. & Jayla J.

Kempsville High School


Introduction (Jayla Jackson)

No clean water to drink, no plants, no clean air-- that is the world every coming

generation will have to deal with if this generation continues to destroy planet Earth. For the past

century, humans have abused the Earth increasingly and in return have suffered greatly.

Pollution is a serious problem because it causes the destruction of the ozone layer, health issues

(e.g.: cancer, malfunctions in the respiratory system, etc.), and increases with the use of non-

renewable energy sources. Water pollution is caused by companies dumping chemical waste in

waterways, non-biodegradable plastic, and environmental pollution (which is caused by nuclear

waste) destroys animal habitats.

Non-Renewable Resources (Vivian DeSantiago)

The main source of pollution in this world is also the main source of energy: non-

renewable resources. Generally speaking, just the extraction if these materials is a hazardous and,

more often than not, arduous process. Non-renewable energy as a whole causes many significant

problems involving pollution. Coal must be mined, the oil must be drilled for (whether on land or

in water), and natural gases must be guided to the surface of the Earth. Coal is a very dirty

energy source.; it releases carbon dioxide (CO2) in excess amounts, causing acid rain and smog

in other areas. The mining of coal, burned to make electricity, can also destroy entire habitats on

the surface or release deadly gases and cause explosions underground. Similarly, nuclear power,

although not a fossil fuel, is just as dangerous, if not more so. The radioactive waste it leaves

behind pollutes soil and groundwater and can be used as bombs by terrorists. Petroleum, possibly

the most popular fuel around the world, accounted for approximately 28% of the United States’

energy production in 2016. Oil is used to run cars, but aside from being a fuel source, oil is also

used to make plastic, which is often discarded and left to decompose which takes months and in

most cases, years. The newest and non-renewable energy that has been discovered is natural gas.

Claiming to be the “cleanest” non-renewable energy source, natural gas accounts for 33% of the

energy in the United States. While natural gas is cleaner than coal and petroleum, the extraction

methods are unsafe and much more dangerous. Hydraulic fracturing (better known as “fracking”)

is the injection of liquids into the Earth’s crust to cause pressure and push the gas up. The

fracking fluid in question is made up mostly of ingredients unknown to the public, however,

some natural gas companies are releasing some of the ingredients used to make their fracking

fluids. Knowledge of these ingredients may bring light to the pollution of the land and aquifers

surrounding fracking sites, which suffer the effects of toxic waste.

Ozone Layer Depletion (Vivian DeSantiago)

Discovered in the year of 1913 by French physicists Charles Fabry and Henri Buisson,

the ozone layer (which is found in the stratosphere) protects us from ultraviolet (UV) rays.

However, it is not invincible. Air pollution does not only cloud up the atmosphere; it also burns

through Earth’s ozone layer. Every day it suffers damage from gases such as Methyl chloroform

(CH3CCl3) and methyl bromide. Despite the unrest caused by ozone layer depletion, it is, in

fact, a natural phenomenon that occurs according to seasonal patterns. Its thinning in Australia,

however, was not natural. The gases that we interact with regularly (carbon dioxide from exhaust

fumes, furnaces, and even from breathing) have caused ozone layer depletion across the entire

globe. Australia, though, has a particularly difficult position. Due to its proximity to the

Antarctic Ozone Hole, Australia suffers from ozone depletion worse than any other continent

except, of course, Antarctica. If ozone depletion only meant an increase in the UV rays that reach

Earth, it would be fine. That is not the case. The increase in UV rays damage the immune system

and create sunburn. In addition, it has resulted in disorders such as cataracts and skin cancer.

Eventually, the human race may burn holes in the atmosphere that it can fix.

Cancer (Vivian DeSantiago)

The second-leading cause of death in the United States is cancer. Although there are

various kinds, they are all characterized by the rapid reproduction and invasion of cells.

Generally, cancer patients suffer symptoms such as: fatigue, weight gain, unintentional weight

loss, lumps, thickening under the skin, and unexplained bleeding or bruising. However, lung

cancer is the most common and kills the most people. The American Cancer Society has

estimated that about 154,050 people have died of lung cancer and that approximately 234,030

new cases have appeared, just this year. Lung cancer has been known to occur most often in big

cities. This is because big cities have excessive outdoor air pollution (fuel exhaust, metals, etc.)

and particulate matter (smoke, dust, and chemicals) which the International Agency for Research

on Cancer (IARC) has identified as carcinogens or cancer-causing agents. If the government

does not take action to resolve the matter of air pollution, cancer will only continue to take lives

and possibly evolve into something that we can’t treat let alone cure.

Damage to the Respiratory System (Vivian DeSantiago)

Of all the negative effects of air pollution, damage to the respiratory system is the most

obvious. We breathe in air every moment of every day and polluting it has had some very serious

consequences. Air pollution causes many problems for the respiratory systems. Pollutants such

as tobacco smoke can cause lung cancer and asthma. Despite the recognition the ozone layer

receives for burning meteors and asteroids, ozone is another pollutant. Also known as ground-

level ozone, this pollutant is created by chemical reactions between volatile organic compounds

(VOCs) and oxides of nitrogen (NOx) which come from vehicle exhaust, gasoline vapors,

industrial facilities, and other sources. Ground level ozone can also harm vegetation and

ecosystems, not just humans. It can cause irritated breathing and trigger symptoms of asthma as

well as lung and heart diseases. Other pollutants can cause human infertility or the release of

cytokines which negatively affect the cardiovascular system by reducing mechanical

performance and metabolic efficiency of the heart and blood vessels. Such pollutants can also

cause inflammatory reactions and necrosis degenerative and can affect heart contractility leading

to fatal arrhythmias. Overall, air pollution leads to diseases that can hospitalize people and even

cause premature death.

Big Corporations (Jayla Jackson)

Most of the chemical pollution in waterways is caused by big corporations. This happens

by way of oil fracking which gets oil into the groundwater, oil spills which gets water into

oceans, or just plain dumping the chemicals in waterways to save money. According to (2016), the government issues pollution permits that allow big corporations

a legal amount of pollution that they are allowed to produce. The more a company pollutes the

more permits they need. They can obtain these permits from other companies that pollute less

and can sell them or from the government. There are a set amount of permits available and that

amount is becoming fewer and fewer by the year. The government is doing this to gradually raise

the price or these permits to discourage business form needing them. The government's plan to

slowly raise prices until it is enough to inconvenience big business is so that the company has

time to invest in cleaner methods of production. (Diagram for pollution permits, para. 2). This

isn’t enough though because this pushes companies to illegally dispose of the waste they


33 U.S. Code § 1344 - Permits for dredged or fill material (2011) states the following:

“If a person negligently or knowingly discharges a pollutant from a point source into a

water of the United States without an NPDES or 404 Permit or in violation of a permit

punishments Include:

Negligent Violations: 1 year and/or $2,500 - 25,000 per day;

Subsequent convictions 2 years and/or $50,000 per day.

Knowing Violations: 3 years and/or $5,000 - 50,000 per day;

Subsequent convictions 6 years and/or $100,000 per day.” (ch. 758)

Even though these laws exist many corporations are still getting away with dumping their

chemicals into the waterways. This is partly because a corporation is treated as one person under

the law and not everyone in a corporation is responsible or even remotely related to the illegal

acts of pollution being committed.

Garbage Patch (Jayla Jackson)

Big Companies aren’t the only ones that pollute the waterways. While they may be one of

the leading causes of chemical contamination the biggest pollutant and threat to underwater

ecosystems is plastic. Globally we produce more plastic waste than any other waste product.

What makes plastic so harmful is that plastic is not fully biodegradable. All of the plastic in the

water will break down into smaller pieces of plastic but will not break down into anything else it

will be plastic for essentially forever. Plastic also releases a chemical called bisphenol A when it

breaks down which fish can eat accidentally.This plastic doesn’t just disappear, it floats around

until it gets caught in one of the many circular currents of the ocean and collects into massive

garbage patches. There are a lot of garbage patches and the Great Pacific garbage patch,

According to Marlan (2018), with a size of over 600,000 square miles making it twice the size of

Texas (Marlan, 2018,) is by far the biggest and most infamous ocean garbage patch in the world.

A pile of garbage that is primarily plastic emits a lot of bisphenol A, which poisons a lot of fish.

Humanity eats fish and they may one day have to stop eating them because a large amount of

fish keeps eating the plastic in the oceans.

Animal Life (Jayla Jackson)

The laziness of humanity has affected many other animals as well. Humans are leaving

their trash on the ground and nearby animals might mistake it for food. Many animals are dying.

Humans poison the water with oil and chemicals, the land with plastic and other harmful garbage

and many animals die because of it. Birds are one example of an animal affected by this. They

gather materials for their nests and may pick up toxic garbage and put it where they raise their

babies. Birds also mistake garbage for food. Birds especially seagulls are fed by humans and

have gotten used to eating the things humans throw on the ground, even the garbage. Animals

can digest plastic no more than humans can and stomach acid can dissolve metal but not plastic.

The problem is that the human body is large enough for small plastic items accidentally eaten to

pass through without causing any major harm, but birds and many of the other animals that

consume human garbage are too small for these small items to pass through safely ultimately

leading to their deaths.


Clean energy (Jayla Jackson)

Humans are polluting the earth in the land and the water but also the air. The greenhouse

gases that human inventions emit is causing global warming and this will not only harm a few

species this could end all life on earth. In fact, global warming has gotten so bad that the

permafrost left from the ice age releasing methane into the atmosphere. Humanity can reduce

their carbon footprint by investing in cleaner energy. The current main form of energy is fossil

fuels or nuclear energy the problem with both is fossil fuels produce carbon dioxide and nuclear

energy produces nuclear waste. There are forms of clean energy available like: wind energy,

hydro energy, solar power. The only problem is that this kind of energy is either too expensive or

inefficient for mainstream use. There are still ways to reduce our carbon footprint, so green

energy isn’t readily available yet people can always conserve energy by not using it in excess.

Conclusion (Vivian DeSantiago)

Trash isn’t a problem in the United States alone. Garbage is everywhere we can imagine,

even some uninhabited islands that have been discovered with bits of plastic. It won’t just

disappear or take care of itself; pollution harms the planet every hour of each day and, unless

people do something about it, pollution will continue to cause major health issues, ozone

depletion, and habitat destruction. Overall, it may be said that pollution is one of the greatest

threats to Earth.


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