Environmental Science · Science



Pollution is a very critical issue that faces our environment. To control this pollution, we need to understand the characteristics and behavior of different pollutants to provide effective strategies and legislation. Pollution impacts our environment in many ways that are evaluated and controlled. Ionization is one of the most harmful pollutions. It affects living organisms’ genetic characteristics, but with some interventions, we can minimize its effect. As pollution has a great impact on our environment, manipulation of food is required to improve our nutritious food. All of these strategies and controls are evaluated, and the data obtained from it can help to improve these policies.

Characteristics of common pollutants

Conventional pollutants have many characteristics, such as water solubility, density, toxicity, degradation, chemical reactivity, bioaccumulation, and biomagnification. Some pollutants are soluble in water. It might cause harm to any organism that drinks this water. Density; the harmful of the pollutant increases as the density increases, while in low densities, the effect will be minimal or no effect. Toxicity differs from pollutant to another. Some are very toxic and can cause death while others are low toxic which may cause harm after a long time. Some toxic pollutants are found in wastewater treatment plants that can be discharged into water. Degradability as the pollutant will not be harmful after some time, but another pollutant can resist the degradability and become dangerous. For example, POPs- Persist Organic Pollutants. Chemical Reactivity depends on the compatibility of chemicals. Some chemicals are not harmful if they existed with incompatible other chemicals, but in the presence of compatible chemical, both might be harmful. Bioaccumulation is the accumulation of pollutant in the organism. Pollutant can gradually accumulate through the food chain. For example, mercury can accumulate in living tissues. Biomagnification is a result of bioaccumulation. The tissue concentration of a pollutant in one trophic level exceeds the tissue concentration at the next lower trophic level in the food chain (EPA, 2012). Algae absorb mercury in seawater. When a fish feeds on algae, it can absorb mercury which accumulates in their tissues. The human who feeds on this fish can consume higher amounts of mercury.

There are some strategies have been established to control toxicity of pollutants. They are, for example, TSCA, NEHAPS, and Ambient Air Quality Directive (2008/50/EC). Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) 1976 in the US is one of the most effective laws in the U.S. It contains three essential parts. In part 1, it must for companies to notify the EPA 90 days before they import or manufacture chemical substances not currently in commercial use. In part 2, the EPA examines chemicals that were in commercial use before the law passed. Finally, the EPA has to control hazardous chemicals. NEHAPS (The National Emission for Hazardous Air Pollutants Standard) is established for air toxic emission emitted from industrial activities that require the use of Maximum Achievable Control Technology (MACT) for compliance. I think it is a very useful to control mercury emissions in the U.S. Ambient Air Quality Directive (2008/50/EC) succeeded to control outdoors air major pollutants such as nitrogen oxides. The emission decreased by 44% in 2011 below 1990 levels (EEA, 2015). It sets standards and plans to combat the discharge of pollution at source and implement effective emission reduction measures.

The pollutants are very harmful to the environment and living organisms. They have two types of impact; direct effect– it can cause harm to the environment directly by contact, inhalation, ingestion or absorption, or indirect effect– the pollutant can cause damage indirectly, for example, sulfur dioxide may cause harm to organisms by acid precipitation. Other impacts can be determined by the time, as the pollutant may cause immediate harm, for example, oil spills- acute effect, or chronic effect that pollutant has a long term effect such as bioaccumulation of toxic compounds. Pollutants have many routes in the environment. This can determine the behavior of the pollutant. It takes routes from its point of source to the sink. These routes are called pathway. Pollutant has different routes in both water and air. It depends on the physical state of it, whether it is solid, liquid or gas. Some pollutants may travel in the atmosphere or water as long as hundreds or thousands kilometer. The pollutant may dilute during his trip which affects the traveling distance.

Control of Pollution

Pollutants affect the atmosphere, water, and soil. Control strategies and legislation have been established in order to control all types of pollution. Some of these strategies are; Air Pollution Controls, Clean Air Act 1990, Montreal Protocol, and Kyoto Protocol. Air Pollution Controls is one of the most critical controls. As acid precipitation can be considered one of air pollution, it can be controlled by using fuel sufficient and alternative renewable sources. Another strategy is that reduce our energy demand; by providing population growth management and stabilization. The US has established Clean Air Act 1990 in order to control acid deposition. I believe it is an effective intervention done by the US EPA as it succeeded to reduce SO2 emissions by 50% by 2010 (EPA, 2014). In order to control ozone depletion, Hydrochlorofluorocarbons, (HCFCs), are used as a substitution of Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). Montreal Protocol 1987 can be considered one of the most critical interventions to control ozone depletion. It succeeded to reduce CFCs emission on air. I believe it is a scientific, accurate, flexible, and efficient policy. Kyoto Protocol 1997, another very effective intervention to reduce greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions. More than 37 industrial countries committed to reduce GHG emission to an average of 5% against 1990 levels (unfccc, 2014). Parties are committed to reducing GHG by 18% from 2013 to 2020.

Some controls of GHS are:

  • Flue gas desulfurization (FGD): Inject an alkaline reagent, such as calcium, in the flue gas directly. This alkaline reagent absorbs, neutralize or oxidize sulfur into calcium sulfate that can be easily removed from the gas waste.
  • Methane from coal mines can be captured and used as an energy resource.

There are some effective strategies to control water pollution such as choose organic fertilizers rather than chemical ones. Some harmful pesticides have been banned, for example, DDT, Pyrethroids are preferable pesticides as it is neither persisting nor cause bioaccumulation. Build buffer zones and fences to prevent erosion and monitoring of water quality can be achieved by using biological indicators. There are also many methods to monitor water quality. Critical Path Analysis is the route by which the greatest concentration of pollutant occurs (N. Reeve, 2002). This process helps to predict the pathway of the pollutant. This will be useful to plan for controlling pollution. TBI (Trend Biotic Indicator); by measuring the population of species of organisms in the water. It gives scale from 0 (very polluted) to 10 (unpolluted). Chandler’s Score is similar to TBI, but it is more detailed and sensitive. It provides a list of macro-invertebrates. Each group of species is given its own score. BMWP is simpler than Chandler’s score. A series of species are grouped into nine blocks according to their sensitivity. Block 1 is for the most sensitive group has score 10, and block 9 is for the most tolerant group and has score 1. BOD (Biological Oxygen Demand) measures the amount of oxygen in the water that is consumed by organisms. It is measured at discharge points. Polluted water has inadequate oxygen levels.

Critical Path Analysis Botkin ES

B. Botkin, D., Edward, A. K., 2011, Environmental Science: Earth as Living Planet – 8th Edition, USA, John Wiley & Sons Inc.

There are some useful controls for Soil Pollution. Soil erosion can be controlled by planting a tree to reduce deforestation. Also, substitute chemical fertilizers by organic ore. Managing solid waste disposal can be achieved by managing dumping of wastes. Using organic fertilizers instead of chemical fertilizers is also a method to control soil pollution. Public awareness, and banning toxic chemicals such as DDT are more efficient ways of controlling soil contamination. Another crucial piece of legislation is Environmental Protection Act 1990. I believe, it is one of the U.K most important pieces of legislation as it consists of 5 functional parts. Part 2 is designated to control and manage wastes as the act prevent disposition, treating, or disposing of a controlled waste unless a waste management license.


Ionization is the process of losing or gaining electrons by the atom or molecules to become an ion. An example of ionization is salt NaCl. Sodium – Na has only one electron in the outermost orbit while Chlorine – Cl has 7 electrons. It needs one electron to be stable. So Na losses his outermost orbit electron and become negatively charged and Cl gain this electron and become positively charged.


Electrical4u, Ionization Process and definition, [online], http://www.electrical4u.com/ionization-process-and-definition/ ,[Accessed 28/06/2015].

Radiation is the energy traveled through space as it moves through materials or space.

Ionizing Radiation (IR):

It is radiation with sufficient energy to eject electrons from atoms. There are 2 categorize of it; Photons such as X and gamma radiation, and particles such as alpha and beta particles and neutrons. Gamma rays are produced within the nucleus when they transit from higher energy state to lower energy state. For example, the decay of the unstable Carbon isotope:

equition 1

X-rays is similar to gamma rays, but it has less energy. It produced externally when the electrons transit from higher to the lower energy shell.

Alpha and Beta Particles:

Alpha consists of 2 protons and two neutrons. It can be identified as helium nucleus . It is called the parent nucleus, for example, the decay of Americium 241 to Neptunium 237

equition 2

Beta particles can be an electron (negatively charged), for example, the decay of Iodine 131 isotope, or positron (positively charged), for example, the decay of Nitrogen 12 isotope.

equition 3

This IR has an impact on human cells, plant, and atmosphere. The primary effect of IR on the human cell is that it breaks DNA. The effect can be direct or indirect. DNA consists of a pair of the interdependent double strand. Radiation can cut one single strand or both strands. It will be easy to repair it if the radiation breaks only one strand as the other strand may help to repair it, but in the case of both strands break, it will be difficult to fix. IR can be used to fight cancer cells as it can kill them, but it might also kill the nearby cells. This can be avoided now by using Tomo-Technology.

The impact of IR on the plant can be concluded below:

  • As same as the human cell, it can cause chromosomal abnormality and DNA damage.
  • It might affect the growth, reproduction including sterility and the viability of offspring.
  • It might reduce seed germination and mortality.
  • It can cause direct burn damages to exposed tissue, and this is most commonly effect.
  • It might affect the photosynthesis process and biochemical pathway.

Galactic Cosmic Rays (GCR) and Solar Energetic Particles (SEP) are the primary sources of ionization in the atmosphere. They affect the chemical- physical processed in the atmosphere as they change the density of clouds. The cosmic rays in the troposphere and stratosphere produce ultrafine aerosols. These aerosols form cloud condensation nuclei which may scatter the solar beam in the forward direction. Cosmic rays influence the Earth’s atmosphere through electrification of the thunderstorm and formation of ice in cyclones. It also affects the amount of negative space charge near the ground, and it determines the flow of charges in the initial stages of the storm. The ions produced above cloud devote the charging current flowing with the down draft in the cloud.

There are several strategies and interventions to control Radiation. Ionizing Radiation Regulation 1999 (UK) is an excellent legal framework as it is established to monitor the exposure of IR arising from work activities. It is the main local act in order to determine requirements for the use and control of IR. I like it as there are some parts I can say that it is very effective like risk assessment and accident preparedness. EU Directive (97/43/Euratom) is a directive of protection of the individual against IR effects. It is an excellent directive as it sets basic safety standards for the protection of worker health and general public health against IR effects. It requires the approval of certain medical procedures by the relevant authority. (American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists) ACGIH, while ACGIH sets the Threshold Limit Value (TLVs) that are used in several jurisdiction occupational exposure limits. For example, 20mSv-TLV for the average annual dose for radiation workers, the average over five years, and 1mSv- the recommended annual dose for the general public (Sulphey & Safeer, 2011).

Human Population:

Overpopulation is one of the main reasons of pollution. The population in Earth has over 7 billion people (Lugolobi, 2014). Humans need resources and services for their daily activities. Non-renewable resources are the most used resources, food, water, land and minerals are about to deplete due to overpopulation. The developed countries with high income consume resources more than poor countries, and the generate more pollution. This increasing in pollution may cause diseases and death. The world population growth is said to be exponential growth; as favorable conditions are available to people to growth. According to 2010, the US statistics shows that it has about 5% of the world’s population who consume about 25% of all the world’s resources. This is called Consumption overpopulation (Lugolobi, 2014). This consumption overpopulation will affect per capita resource demands. The depletion of resources increases as the population increases. For example, fossil fuels are now depleted. In most less developed countries, land, water and food are the central crisis for them.


They are ecosystems that have been deliberately simplified by people for the purpose of the production of species goods of value to human (Conway, 1993: Sulphey & Safeer, 2015). Agroecosystem energy flow is different than the natural ecosystem as it depends on human interference.

Characteristics of agroecosystem:

  • The nutrient cycle is minimal.
  • Self-reproducing of the population of crops plants are very rare.
  • It is more suitable and less flexible than a natural

Manipulation of food species:

The human tries to use some techniques in all his life fields to improve his life. Agriculture is one of those fields. Manipulation is a technique of enhancing a crop of food or a trait of the animal. There are many techniques of manipulation:

Genetic Engineering:

It is a modification of the organism’s genome by adding new DNA manually to an organism to improve an organism’s trait. It is called genetic modification (GM). Techniques can be provided by the physical removal of the gene from an organism and insert it to another. The advantages are it can prevent most diseases and illness, it is also can provide massive amounts of food and nutrition, and it might help in decrease uses of pesticides and protect the crops. However, it has some drawbacks as it has different taste than natural food, and it can be used as a weapon by producing a poisoned food or to generate harmful diseases.

Population Control:

People can control the crop population by using manipulation techniques. It might happen by separate males and females and monitor their breeding. The breeding can be controlled by choosing the suitable place and time for it.

Monoculture Agriculture:

It means that the vegetation is composed of single species or crop. It is useful to reduce plant competitions for nutrients, space, and solar radiation (ECIFM, 2010). It can be used to control of unwanted organisms and reduce the costs of hiring or buying required machines for arable operations. However, it can be harmful as it can deplete nitrogen levels in the soil. The absence of genetic variation can create diseases. It has been proven that it causes environmental damages.

Artificial or Selective Breeding:

It is a process of breeding an animal or a plant to get particular traits. There are three types of breeding: inbreeding- between two strictly genetic related species, outbreeding- breeding of two unrelated species, and cross breeding- mixing of two different species to produce a hybrid one with all the best characteristics of parent species. Examples of selective breeding in plants: Broccoli, cabbage, and kale.

Data is used to identify the effectiveness of any policy or strategy. Some of these successful strategies are:

Kyoto Protocol:

As a one of the most important strategies to control pollution, Kyoto Protocol succeeded to reduce CO2 emissions in Europe by 4.7%, reduce European emissions by 5-14% (Van Vuuren, 2007).

Country Target from 1990-2008/2012
EU-15 -8%
US -7%
Canada, Hungary, Japan, Poland -6%
Croatia -5%
New Zealand, Russia, Ukraine 0%
Norway +1%
Australia +8%
Iceland +10%

As per Kyoto Protocol annual report 2013, the CO2 emissions amounted 22.3% lower than 1990 levels.

Clean Air Act 1970:

The national annual emissions have decreased since 1990. The greatest percentage drop is for lead.

The Direct PM2.5 emissions has decreased by more than 50%, PM10 and SO2 emissions have declined by 60%, and NOx and VOC emissions have dropped by 40% (EPA, 2011). I think this is a great achievement resulted from the Clean Air Act in the US.

Environmental Act 1995:

From the air quality statistics in the UK 1987 to 2014:

  • Decreases in urban background particulate pollution PM10 has been recorded in 2014 = 17 µgm-3, a new low since 1992.
  • The average concentrations of roadside particulate pollution have decreased to 19µgm -3 in 2014, a new low since 1996.
  • A long-term improvement in urban background ozone pollution. The daily 8-hours concentrations decreased to 61µgm-3 in 2014 since 1987.

These are significant improvements in the air pollution emission concentration have been achieved by this act.


Controlling of pollution is not a mission impossible. It just needs effective strategies to be implemented. These strategies must be evaluated by using data. The study of pollution behavior helped scientists to expect the pathway of it and to control all type of contamination; however, there are some places that pollution has not been controlled.


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