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The causes of water pollution

Oceans are polluted by oil on a daily basis from

Domestic households, industrial and Industry is a huge source of water pollution, it produces pollutants oil spills, routine shipping, run-offs and
agricultural practices produce wastewater that that are extremely harmful to people and the environment. dumping.
can cause pollution of many lakes and rivers.

• Many industrial facilities use freshwater to carry away • Oil spills make up about 12% of the
• Sewage is the term used for waste from the plant and into rivers, lakes and oceans. oil that enters the ocean. The rest
wastewater that often contains • Pollutants from industrial sources include: come from shipping travel, drains and
faeces, urine and laundry waste. o Asbestos – This pollutant is a serious health dumping.
• There are billions of people on Earth, hazard and carcinogenic. Asbestos fibres can be • An oil spill from a tanker is a severe
so treating sewage is a big priority. inhaled and cause illnesses such as asbestosis, problem because there is such a huge
• Sewage disposal is a major problem in mesothelioma, lung cancer, intestinal cancer and quantity of oil being spilt into one
developing countries as many people liver cancer. place.
in these areas don’t have access to o Lead – This is a metallic element and can cause • Oil spills cause a very localised
sanitary conditions and clean water. health and environmental problems. It is a non- problem but can be catastrophic to
• Untreated sewage water in such areas biodegradable substance so is hard to clean up local marine wildlife such as fish, birds
can contaminate the environment and once the environment is contaminated. Lead is and sea otters.
cause diseases such as diarrhoea. harmful to the health of many animals, including • Oil cannot dissolve in water and forms
humans, as it can inhibit the action of bodily
• Sewage in developed countries is a thick sludge in the water. This
enzymes. suffocates fish, gets caught in the
carried away from the home quickly
and hygienically through sewage
o Mercury - This is a metallic element and can feathers of marine birds stopping
pipes. cause health and environmental problems. It is a them from flying and blocks light from
non-biodegradable substance so is hard to clean photosynthetic aquatic plants.
• Sewage is treated in water treatment
up once the environment is contaminated.
plants and the waste is often disposed
Mercury is also harmful to animal health as it can
into the sea.
cause illness through mercury poisoning.
• Sewage is mainly biodegradable and o Nitrates – The increased use of fertilisers means
most of it is broken down in the that nitrates are more often being washed from
environment. the soil and into rivers and lakes. This can cause
• In developed countries, sewage often eutrophication, which can be very problematic to
causes problems when people flush marine environments.
chemical and pharmaceutical o Phosphates - The increased use of fertilisers
substances down the toilet. When means that phosphates are more often being Atmospheric deposition is the pollution of
people are ill, sewage often carries washed from the soil and into rivers and lakes. water caused by air pollution.
harmful viruses and bacteria into the This can cause eutrophication, which can be very
environment causing health problems. problematic to marine environments.
o Sulphur – This is a non-metallic substance that is • In the atmosphere, water particles
mix with carbon dioxide sulphur
harmful for marine life.
dioxide and nitrogen oxides, this
o Oils – Oil does not dissolve in water, instead it forms a weak acid.
forms a thick layer on the water surface. This can
• Air pollution means that water vapour
stop marine plants receiving enough light for
absorbs more of these gases and
photosynthesis. It is also harmful for fish and
becomes even more acidic.
marine birds.
o Petrochemicals – This is formed from gas or • When it rains the water is polluted
petrol and can be toxic to marine life. with these gases, this is called acid
• When acid rain pollutes marine
habitats such as rivers and lakes,
aquatic life is harmed.
The causes of water pollution

A tank or piping network that has at least 10 percent of

its volume underground is known as an underground
storage tank (UST). They often store substances such
Dumping of litter in the sea can cause huge problems. Litter items as petroleum, that are harmful to the surrounding
such as 6-pack ring packaging can get caught in marine animals environment should it become contaminated. Many
and may result in death. Different items take different lengths of UST’s constructed before 1980 are made from steel
time to degrade in water: Eutrophication is when the environment
pipes that are directly exposed to the environment.
becomes enriched with nutrients. This can
Over time the steel corrodes and causes leakages,
be a problem in marine habitats such as
affecting surrounding soil and groundwater.
• Cardboard – Takes 2 weeks to degrade. lakes as it can cause algal blooms.
• Newspaper – Takes 6 weeks to degrade.
• Photodegradable packaging – Takes 6 weeks to degrade. • Fertilisers are often used in
• Foam – Takes 50 years to degrade. farming, sometimes these fertilisers
• Styrofoam – Takes 80 years to degrade. run-off into nearby water causing
an increase in nutrient levels.
• Aluminium – Takes 200 years to degrade.
• This causes phytoplankton to grow
• Plastic packaging – Takes 400 years to degrade.
and reproduce more rapidly,
• Glass – It takes so long to degrade that we don’t know resulting in algal blooms.
the exact time. An increase in water temperature can result in the death • This bloom of algae disrupts normal
of many aquatic organisms and disrupt many marine ecosystem functioning and causes
habitats. For example, a rise in water temperatures many problems.
causes coral bleaching of reefs around the world. This is
when the coral expels the microorganisms of which it is
• The algae may use up all the
oxygen in the water, leaving none
dependent on. This can result in great damage to coral
for other marine life. This results in
reefs and subsequently, all the marine life that depends
the death of many aquatic
on it.
organisms such as fish, which need
the oxygen in the water to live.
Nuclear waste is produced from industrial, medical and scientific The rise in the Earth's water temperature is caused by
processes that use radioactive material. Nuclear waste can have
• The bloom of algae may also block
global warming. sunlight from photosynthetic marine
detrimental effects on marine habitats. Nuclear waste comes from
plants under the water surface.
a number of sources:
• Global warming is a process where the average • Some algae even produce toxins
global temperature increases due to the that are harmful to higher forms of
• Operations conducted by nuclear power stations produce greenhouse effect. life. This can cause problems along
radioactive waste. Nuclear-fuel reprocessing plants in the food chain and affect any
• The burning of fossil fuel releases greenhouse
northern Europe are the biggest sources of man-made animal that feeds on them.
gasses, such as carbon dioxide, into the
nuclear waste in the surrounding ocean. Radioactive
traces from these plants have been found as far away as
Greenland. • This causes heat from the sun to get ‘trapped’ in
the Earths atmosphere and consequently the
• Mining and refining of uranium and thorium are also
global temperature rises.
causes of marine nuclear waste.
• Waste is also produced in the nuclear fuel cycle which is
used in many industrial, medical and scientific processes.