• Written By Praveen Sahu
  • Last Modified 24-01-2023

Environmental Pollution: Types, Causes and Effects


Environmental Pollution: Environmental Pollution is not a new phenomenon, yet it remains one of the greatest threats to the health and well-being of humanity and one of the major environmental causes of death and morbidity. For example, substances such as plastic materials, heavy metals, etc., once released into the atmosphere. By natural processes, it cannot be degraded and are harmful to living organisms. In environmental pollution, pollutants originate from a source, are transported by air or water, and are dumped into the soil by human beings.

The long-term impacts of pollution are still being felt despite global attention to the issue. Day by day, our atmosphere is becoming more and more polluted due to anthropogenic activities. It is usually due to the pollutants released into the air, water, soil, etc., through many human activities. Let us examine the different types of environmental pollution.

Environmental Pollution Definition: Types of Environmental Pollution

Environmental Pollution is the effect caused by undesirable changes in our surroundings that have harmful impacts on plants, animals, and human beings.  A substance that causes Pollution is known as a Pollutant. Pollutants can be solid, liquid, or gaseous substances present in greater concentrations than in natural abundance and may produce due to human activities or natural happenings.

For example, an average human being requires around 12−15 times more air than food. So, even a tiny amount of pollutants in the air becomes significant compared to similar levels in food. Pollutants can be degradable, like discarded vegetables rapidly broken down by the natural process. Slowly degradable pollutants remain in the environment unchanged for many decades.

What is Pollution?

Modifying the environment caused by human influence, which often renders the environment harmful and unpleasant to live in, is called Pollution. Atmospheric Pollution is caused by gases such as sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide, and nitrogen oxides being released into the atmosphere by various industries and by burning fossil fuels. Water Pollution is caused by many substances, such as those found in fertilisers and industrial effluents.

Types of Environmental Pollution

Based on the part of the environment that is polluted, Pollution is of the following types:

  1. Air Pollution
  2. Water Pollution
  3. Soil Pollution
  4. Noise Pollution
  5. Radioactive Pollution

Air Pollution

Air Pollution occurs due to undesirable changes in the physical, chemical, or biological characteristics of air that exert harmful effects on all living beings. Harmful effects caused by air pollution depend on the following:

  1. Concentration of pollutants
  2. Duration of exposure to the pollutants 
  3. Type of the organism it affects

Causes of Air Pollution

Check out the causes of environmental pollution in the below-mentioned section:

1. Particulate pollutants which constitute metallic particles, dust particles, soot, aerosol, and smoke.
2. Gaseous pollutants in the air constitute carbon dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, hydrogen sulphide, and sulphur dioxide.

Effects of Pollution on Environment

Now let us check out the effects of pollution on the environment in the below-mentioned section:

Effects of Air Pollution

The various effects of air pollutants on plants, animals, and humans are as follows:

On Plants

  1. It causes fruit damage and various leaf diseases like chlorosis, necrosis, and mottled spots on leaves.
  2. Decreases the growth yield of crops and causes premature death of plants.
  3. Weakens plants and increases infestation by pests.
  4. Acid rain damages the aerial parts and also acidifies the soils. It leads to the production of free radicals, thus, decreasing photosynthesis and productivity.

On Humans

  1. About \({\rm{40\% }}\) of human deaths occur due to air pollution.
  2. Causes an increase in susceptibility to diseases.
  3. Causes cancer and genetic mutations.
  4. Causes respiratory ailments like asthma, hay fever, and other allergic diseases.
  5. Causes cardiovascular diseases and damage to the central nervous system, resulting in premature death.
  6. Causes immediate effects like inflammation, nausea, headache, and irritation to the eyes and nose.

On Animals

  1. The negative impact of air pollution on animals is more or less similar to that on humans. Chronic poisoning results from the ingestion of forage contaminated with atmospheric pollutants.
  2. Among metallic contaminants, arsenic, lead, and molybdenum are harmful to animals. Fluoride is another pollutant, which causes fluorosis among animals.

Causes of Air Pollution

The major causes of air pollution are as follows:

  1. Excessive use of fossil fuels by automobiles
  2. Smokestacks of thermal power plants, smelters, etc.
  3. Particulate and gaseous air pollutants released by various industries
  4. Garbage decomposition
  5. Use of petrol and diesel

Water Pollution

Water Pollution is defined as any undesirable change in physical, chemical, or biological properties of water that may affect living beings adversely. Due to human activities, ponds, rivers, oceans, and estuaries are getting polluted in several parts of the world.

Sources of Water Pollution

Let us look at the sources of water pollution in the section below:

  1. Discharge of untreated domestic sewage into rivers leads to water pollution.
  2. Excessive use of fertilisers and pesticides in agriculture also causes water pollution.
  3. Discharge of toxic waste from factories and refineries. etc., pollute water.
  4. Oil spills that are an accidental release of oil by tankers in oceans may cause marine water pollution.
  5. Inappropriate disposal of litter such as plastic bags, wrappers and bottles, lead to Water Pollution.

Effects of Water Pollution

Water Pollution affects both animals and plants and leads to an adverse impact on the aquatic ecosystem. The major effects of Water Pollution are as follows:

  1. Water-borne diseases: Sewage gives the maximum opportunity for the pathogenic and non-pathogenic microorganisms to grow. These pathogenic (disease-causing) microorganisms are responsible for several water-borne diseases like diarrhoea, typhoid, cholera, dysentery, jaundice, hepatitis, etc.
  2. Toxic waste material: Toxic waste material from the industries such as heavy metals, pesticides, cyanides, and many organic and inorganic wastes are released directly into the river, lakes, and ocean, affecting the species present in these aquatic ecosystems, and ultimately affecting human health.

Soil Pollution

Soil Pollution is the build-up of persistent toxic compounds, chemicals, salts, radioactive materials, or disease-causing agents in the soil, which have adverse effects on plant growth and animal health.
Causes of Soil Pollution

Soil Pollution is caused by the presence of man-made chemicals or other alterations in the natural soil environment. This type of contamination usually arises from the rupture of underground storage links, application of pesticides, percolation of contaminated surface water to the subsurface, fuel dumping, leaching of wastes from landfills, or direct discharge of industrial wastes to the soil.

The common chemicals involved are petroleum hydrocarbons, solvents, pesticides, lead, and other heavy metals. The occurrence of this phenomenon is correlated with the degree of industrialisation and intensities of chemical usage.

Effects of Soil Pollution

Soil Pollution can have several harmful effects on ecosystems and human, plant, and animal health. The detrimental effects of soil pollution may come from direct contact with polluted soil or contact with other resources, such as water or food, grown on or come in direct contact with the contaminated soil. Some of the effects are:

  1. Reduced soil fertility
  2. Reduced nitrogen fixation
  3. Release of pollutant gases 
  4. Release of radioactive rays causing health problems
  5. Pollution of drinking water sources
  6. Foul smell and release of gases
  7. Waste management problems.

Noise Pollution

The unpleasant, discomfort-causing sound from any source is called noise. The sustained presence of harmful, unwanted, or annoying noise in the environment is called noise pollution. Any object that produces noise is a potential source of noise pollution. Examples are television and radio (when played at a loud volume), air coolers, automobiles, blaring loudspeakers, and air conditioners.

Impacts of Noise Pollution

Noise has a jarring effect on us. One should not underestimate the impact of noise pollution on people. Here are some of the harmful effects of noise pollution:

  1. Irritation and loss of concentration
  2. Sleep disturbance and stress (which can lead to high blood pressure)
  3. Ear damage and loss of hearing (which may result from exposure to a sudden loud noise or from continuous exposure to noise over some time)

Measures to Reduce Noise Pollution

Minimising noise pollution requires a certain degree of discipline from all of us. Some of the measures one should adopt to keep noise pollution under control are given below:

  1. The use of loudspeakers should be avoided.
  2. People living in flats (and houses close to each other) should not talk too loudly or play the television/music too loudly so as not to disturb their neighbours.
  3. While driving, people should avoid playing loud music and using the horn unnecessarily.

Radioactive Pollution

This is considered one of the most dangerous pollution because of its permanent effects. It can cause cancer, infertility due to exposure, congenital disabilities, and blindness. It can permanently change the soil, air, and water. It can even cause mutation in species which can propagate for ages.

Climate Change

Many activities have contributed to a significant change in the climate temperature. The heat gain from air-conditioning units, vehicles on the road and other combustion processes will increase the ozone layer’s depletion rate, increasing climate temperature. A second problem is the so-called greenhouse effect.

Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere functions like the glass in a greenhouse, screening out excessive infrared rays and acting as an insulator to prevent heat from escaping day and night. Without the protection of the atmosphere, the temperature on the earth could reach the extremes they do on the moon. If we continue to burn fossil fuels, the level of carbon dioxide in the air may increase to the point where it will blanket the earth and cause it to warm to a dangerous level.

Environmental Pollution and Its Effects on Health

Let us look at environmental pollution and its effect on health in the section below:

  1. Air Pollution results are cancer, neurobehavioral disorders, cardiovascular problems, reduced energy levels, premature death, asthma, irritation of the eyes, nose, mouth and throat, reduced lung functioning, respiratory symptoms, etc.
  2. Nutrient-polluted water causes the overgrowth of toxic algae eaten by other aquatic animals and may cause death; it can also cause eruptions of fish diseases.
  3. Chemical contamination can cause declines in frog biodiversity and tadpole mass.
  4. Oil Pollution can increase susceptibility to disease, affect reproductive processes, and negatively affect the development of marine organisms. It can also be a source of gastrointestinal irritation, damage to the nervous system, and liver and kidney damage.
  5. Mercury in water can cause reduced reproduction, slower growth and development, abnormal behaviour and death.
  6. Persistent organic pollutants may cause declines, deformities, and death of fish life. Fish from polluted water and vegetables/ crops produced or washed from contaminated water could also impact human and animal health.

Environmental Pollution Prevention

Students already know about environmental pollution definition and its effects. Now let us check out how to prevent environmental pollution:

  1. Environmental Pollution can be controlled by proper waste management and developing green chemistry. Instead of conventional fuels and energy systems, non-conventional fuels and non-conventional energy systems must be put into practice. This will cause less pollution.
  2. The growth of the population must be controlled.
  3. Forests should be grown. Everybody must plant a tree and must protect it.
  4. Every citizen should feel the social responsibility of protecting and keeping the environment clean and green.

Pollution impacts the quality of life and harms biodiversity. Fresh air, water and soil are always the first certificates for survival on this planet. The government and citizens must have collective responsibility for preventing and controlling environmental pollution.

Although people do not have enough resources to repair the damage caused by environmental pollution, the prevention will gradually show improvements. We should try to work together to end pollution and build a comfortable environment.


Pollution is caused due to contamination of our environment from the pollutants released into the air, water, soil, etc. This article studied how human and natural activities cause environmental pollution. Furthermore, we can control various effects and causes of environmental pollution by taking preventive measures.

FAQs on Environmental Pollution

Let us look at some of the frequently asked questions about environmental pollution:

Question 1: What are the main causes of environmental pollution?

Ans: Water pollution, soil erosion, dumping of solid waste, rapid urbanisation, and industrialisation are the main causes of environmental pollution.

Question 2: How is the environment polluted?

Ans: Pollution refers to the addition of contaminating substances to the natural environment resulting in an adverse impact on the environment. The environment is getting polluted by human activities.

Question 3: What are the effects of environmental pollution?

Ans: Environmental Pollution has negatively affected the life of both human beings and animals. Air pollution may cause severe lungs-diseases. Soil pollution may harm farm output ratio, and noise pollution has adverse effects on hearing or auditory sense organs.

Question 4: Who is responsible for environmental pollution?

Ans: Every human activity is contributing to environmental pollution. We need to do our needful to combat the harm that has been happening to the environment and make our planet habitable in the long run.

Unleash Your True Potential With Personalised Learning on EMBIBE