Water pollution is one of the most severe environmental problems in the world. The problem has been recognized for more than a century. Still, scientific and technological advances have identified several sources of water pollution, their impact on human health, and ways to combat it.
What Is Water Pollution?
Water pollution is the contamination of water bodies, especially surface water and groundwater, by human activities. Water pollution causes significant health problems worldwide and is a major environmental issue. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), around 785 million people do not have essential drinking-water services, leading to diseases like diarrhea, cholera, typhoid, etc.
Human activity can be responsible for some types of pollution, while others are caused by natural processes like runoff from soil or erosion of land surfaces. Rivers may become polluted when they flow through industrial areas or cities where many factories use chemicals in river systems when they discharge their waste products into them.
Causes of Water Contamination
There are many different ways that water pollution can be caused, and they’re all related to the same thing, a lack of proper care or maintenance.
Agricultural water pollution can occur when there is improper use of pesticides, fertilizers, and animal waste on agricultural land. This type of pollution may contaminate groundwater or surface water if the chemicals used in these processes leak into the soil and move through it. There are also other ways that agricultural water pollution can occur, such as when pesticides wash off farmlands into streams and rivers.
Sewage water pollution comes from human waste being dumped into rivers and lakes. Industrial sewage toxins are one of the most common causes of water contamination. They include anything from heavy metals like lead and mercury to plastic particles and other plastics. This pollution occurs when industrial facilities discharge their waste into nearby waterways.
A study found that half of the U.S. rivers, stream miles, and lake acres are too polluted for swimming, fishing, and drinking. Studies classify these sources as “impaired,” meaning they are below the safety standards and cannot allow swimming and other recreational activities.
Garbage and plastics are often dumped into the ocean. The trash can break down into tiny pieces and be ingested by fish, which then get passed on to humans when they eat them.
Radioactive waste can persist for thousands of years in the water bodies and environment, complicating safe disposal. The improper disposal or accidental release of these contaminants can poll surface water, groundwater, and seawater.
Oil spills are one of the most common reasons why water becomes contaminated. Oil spills can occur in rivers, lakes, and oceans when oil pipelines burst or as a result of an accident on an oil tanker. The effects of an oil spill can be devastating to aquatic wildlife and humans who consume fish from polluted bodies of water.
Water contamination after fracking is a serious problem. The fracking process involves injecting water, sand, and chemicals into the ground at high pressure to extract natural gas from shale rock. This process can lead to the release of toxic chemicals into nearby groundwater, contaminating drinking water supplies. Additionally, it has been found that there may be health effects from exposure to these chemicals.
Effects of Contaminated Water on Human Health
Water pollution can lead to illness, disease, and even cancer. Americans generate about 36 million tons of plastic each year. Microplastics are tiny pieces of plastic that have broken down from larger pieces into smaller ones and can come from various sources.
Microplastics are found in everything from fish to drinking water and even beer. Research indicates that microplastics may cause oxidative stress, inflammatory reactions, and human metabolic disorders.
Chemicals such as pesticides, fertilizers, and heavy metals seriously threaten human health if ingested. Water chemical toxins can cause cancer, neuroendocrine disruption, cardiovascular problems, liver disease, kidney disease, and reproductive health issues.
Most Americans likely ingest “forever chemicals” in their drinking water. These compounds may remain in the environment for hundreds, or even thousands, of years. They can also build up in the human body over time, potentially causing health problems. An example is Camp Lejeune, where toxic chemicals that could cause cancer were found in drinking water.
Millions of veterans and their families were exposed to contaminated water between 1953 and 1987. This exposure led to numerous health problems, such as cancers, Multiple Myeloma, non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, etc. In 2022, the Camp Lejeune Justice Act was passed to provide the victims with a way to seek compensation for their injuries and losses. With the Camp Lejeune Justice Act now being a part of the PACT Act, veterans can easily claim compensation for the problems they faced.
According to the World Health Organization, 2 billion people use a water source contaminated by fecal matter. Polluted water can harbor various disease-carrying bacteria responsible for health conditions, such as diarrhea, typhoid, cholera, hepatitis A, etc.
Combating Water Pollution
People must understand how their actions can impact the environment and human health to combat water pollution. You can help prevent water from becoming polluted by not dumping waste into your local waterways. If you see someone doing this, report them to an authority figure immediately.
It is vital to improve sustainability and reduce plastic waste locally and globally to combat water pollution. Water pollution can be reduced by treating some water before reintroducing it into waterways. This is a highly effective solution since wastewater treatment facilities can remove nearly all pollutants in wastewater via a chemical, physical, or biological process.
Water is a limited resource, so limiting your daily water use helps reduce pollution. While shaving or brushing your teeth, it’s recommended that you keep the water turned off. Take shorter showers if you shower every day. You could also decide to take a bath, which uses less water than a shower.
There are many ways that you can help. One of the easiest things to do is to inform yourself about local issues and take action when necessary.
Water pollution is a severe problem that affects everyone and must be addressed. The best way to fight water contamination is by educating people about its dangers and encouraging them to make smart choices when consuming water.