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What are pollutants

Pollution is something that is currently part of our daily lives and, in fact, in the blood of human beings today there are more than 300 polluting chemicals that were not previously present in the blood of our grandparents. Pollutants can be of chemical, physical or biological origin; And these be present in different environments of the environment, as well as in food.

If you want to know all the pollutants that exist, be sure to read this interesting AgroCorrn article about what pollutants are , as well as some specific ones from air, water, soil and food.

You may also be interested in: What are the soil pollutants
  1. Pollution history – summary
  2. What are physical, chemical and biological pollutants
  3. Water pollutants
  4. Soil pollutants
  5. Air pollutants
  6. Food contaminants

Pollution history – summary

Small-scale pollution has really always been among living things. There are studies that make it clear that high levels of contamination from the bonfires that were made were already perceived in Prehistoric times. Metal contamination also occurred at the hands of ancient civilizations such as Chinese, Greek, and Roman. Even so, this pollution did not put the balance of the planet at risk because it was very small and localized.

The first records of pollution that do pose a problem for the environment and the functioning of ecosystems, occur shortly after the beginning of the First Industrial Revolution . These records have not stopped growing to this day due to the increase in factories, burning of fossil fuels, increased waste due to overpopulation, chemical spills, etc. Taking this into account, what awaits us in the future?

What are physical, chemical and biological pollutants

When we speak of pollutants we refer to those substances that are found in the natural environment and that cause harmful effects on the environment itself and on the health of the living beings that inhabit it. We can find pollutants of three types : physical, chemical and biological.

  • Chemical pollutants: they are substances that can be natural or of artificial origin, organic or inorganic, which are present in the natural environment and can be absorbed by the organism of living beings causing harmful effects, both in the short and long term. In this other post you can learn more about chemical pollution: what it is, causes and consequences .
  • Physical pollutants: these with their sole presence in the environment, modifies the quality of their components. They are characterized by exchanging energy between the environment and living beings. Some examples of this type of pollution are: noise, radiation, thermal agents, among others.
  • Biological pollutants: they are organisms capable of causing the degradation of air, water, soil and food while they carry out their life cycle. They are a danger for many living beings, since they can generate infectious or parasitic diseases. Examples of types of biological contaminants are viruses and pathogenic bacteria.

If you are interested, you can consult this other article on Types of environmental pollutants to learn more about it. Next, those environmental pollutants will be shown, classified into water, soil, air and food pollutants.

Water pollutants

Groundwater and surface water, as well as all fresh and salt water bodies, are affected by different types of pollutants. The main water pollutants are:

  • Wastewater: these are loaded with toxic substances, organic matter, heavy metals or chemicals. It should be treated in purification plants, although the reality is that many industries and towns do not have plants to treat them or because it is cheaper for them not to treat them, they end up dumping them into rivers and seas. If you want to learn more about this problem, you can consult this other post about What is wastewater and how it is classified .
  • Heavy metals: they are very toxic and can induce diseases such as cancer or mutations. Among them we find cadmium, chromium, mercury, copper, silver and lead. These metals are related to mining and industrial activity. Here we tell you much more about how heavy metal pollution occurs in water .
  • Pesticides: agricultural activity needs pesticides to deal with insect pests, in addition to using them in livestock to prevent infections and diseases in animals. These are a danger to groundwater, since they reach them by leaching, some of them have been banned over time as they are very harmful to human health.
  • Pathogenic microorganisms: these can already exist naturally in the water, although contamination of the water by sewage can increase their numbers. These microorganisms can cause diseases such as infections, diarrhea and even death.
  • Hydrocarbons: within these are gasoline, diesel or oil, they are transported in ships, which can cause spillage into the sea due to accidents or leaks. They are very difficult to eliminate, in addition to being very toxic destroying numerous habitats.
  • Emerging pollutants: these refer to the presence of medicines, drugs, hygiene products, microplastics , cleaning products, etc. They are those pollutants that could not be detected before, but thanks to technological advances now they can be detected, or that a few decades ago did not exist. Learn more about Emerging Pollutants: definition, examples and how they affect us .
  • Radioactive agents: mainly the origin comes from nuclear power plants, due to an accident or leak, sometimes radioactive waste has also been illegally dumped to get rid of it. Perhaps it is one of the most dangerous pollutants, since it is very difficult to contain and eliminate. Here you can learn more about radioactive contamination: causes, consequences and solutions .

If you are looking to further expand your knowledge about water pollution, we encourage you to read these other articles related to this topic: What are the polluting agents in water and The most polluting and difficult to separate waste from water .

Soil pollutants

The soil can be very polluted by the actions of people. These are the main soil pollutants :

  • Pesticides: all pesticide products such as insecticides, herbicides or fungicides used in agriculture and livestock, seriously damage the soil.
  • Heavy metals: the accumulation of these metals in the soil originating, above all, from mining activity. They are very harmful to the organism of living beings.
  • Garbage accumulation : accumulation in landfills, causes the fermentation of organic waste to begin to take place, causing toxic substances to infiltrate the soil.

Expand this information by consulting our article on What are soil pollutants .

Air pollutants

We could make a long list of all the pollutants that affect the air. In summary, we can say that these are the pollutants of the air or atmosphere :

  • Suspended particles: these are very small and that is why they are so harmful to living beings, since they can more easily penetrate their bodies, causing diseases. An example of these particles is nitrogen dioxide.
  • Greenhouse gases: such as ozone, sulfur dioxide, CFCs or chlorofluorocarbons , carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, and methane. Ozone comes from chemical reactions of other components such as hydrocarbons. CFC was used to produce aerosols, refrigerators and air conditioners, although its use was prohibited as it was very dangerous. Methane has its main source of emission in livestock and the rest of the gases come mainly from combustion activities. Some of them such as CO2 or CH4 were already in the atmosphere naturally, the problem comes when these begin to increase due to anthropic activities. Find out more about what gases produce the greenhouse effect and where they come from with this other article.

To learn more about this topic, we recommend you take a look at these other interesting articles:

Food contaminants

These are the contaminants in food :

  • Living organisms: bacteria, fungi and other parasites can begin to appear in food at a certain time, due to not being well preserved or leaving them without eating for too long from the moment we acquire them. Currently, this is completely controlled if the hygiene and food preservation guidelines are followed. However, surely, you have ever seen a small worm in a fruit or a small insect in a vegetable.
  • Natural contamination: they are toxins that are found naturally in food and that if we do not ingest them correctly can be harmful to living beings. For example, eating raw potato is dangerous for humans, it already contains a toxic substance called solanine just under the skin, so when we eat potato we must do it when it is cooked and without skin.
  • Pesticides and pesticides: the use of these in agriculture and livestock causes food to be contaminated, which in the end ends up in the food chain reaching animals and humans.

Learn more about this topic with this other post about the Types of contamination in food .

If you want to read more articles similar to What are pollutants , we recommend that you enter our Pollution category .

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Hello, I am a blogger specialized in environmental, health and scientific dissemination issues in general. The best way to define myself as a blogger is by reading my texts, so I encourage you to do so. Above all, if you are interested in staying up to date and reflecting on these issues, both on a practical and informative level.

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