Thursday, 28 March 2013

noise, radioactive, soil and thermal pollution

Noise pollution
Noise pollution is displeasing or excessive noise that may disrupt the activity or balance of human or animal life
  • construction sites
  • Loud music
  • Transportation eg Cars, motorcycles, buses
  • Household eg Blender, vacuum cleaner, washing machine and air conditioner
  • Health problems eg Hearing loss, headache, poor concentration, fatigue from lack of sleep, loss of psychological well being\
  • Construction of soundproof rooms for noisy machines in industrial and manufacturing installations must be encouraged. This is also important for residential building—noisy machines should be installed far from sleeping and living rooms, like in a basement or garage.
  • Use of horns with jarring sounds, motorbikes with damaged exhaust pipes, noisy trucks to be banned.
  • Noise producing industries, airports, bus and transport terminals and railway stations to sighted far from where living places.
  • Community law enforcers should check the misuse of loudspeakers, worshipers, outdoor parties and discos, as well as public announcements systems.
  • Community laws must silence zones near schools / colleges, hospitals etc.
  • Vegetation (trees) along roads and in residential areas is a good way to reduce noise pollution as they absorb sound.
  • Encourage use of public transport
  • Be considerate to others
Radioactive pollution
The radioactive pollution is defined as the physical pollution of air, water and the other radioactive materials.
  • Production of nuclear weapons - radioactive materials used in this production have high health risks and release a small amount of pollution. Thanks to good current health-standards this release is not significant and is not a danger to us unless an accident occurs. Standards have not always been so high, however, as in Fernald, Ohio.
  • Decommissioning of nuclear weapons - the decommissioning of nuclear weapons causes slightly more radioactive pollution than in the production, however, the waste (alpha particles) is still of low risk and not dangerous unless ingested.
  • Mining of radioactive ore (uranium, phosphate etc.) - mining these involves crushing and processing of the radioactive ores and this generates radioactive waste which emits alpha particles. This waste is of low risk unless ingested.
  • Coal ash - it may come as a surprise that coal ash can be very dangerous. Some coal contains more radioactive material than usual and is often referred to as 'dirty' coal; when this is burnt the ash becomes more radioactive as the radioactive particles do not burn well. This level of radioactivity is less than in phosphate rocks, however, due to small amounts being released into the atmosphere and its ability to be inhaled, this ash is significantly more dangerous.
  • Medical waste - a number of radioactive isotopes are used in medicine, either for treatment or diagnostics. These can be left to decay over a short period after which they are able to be disposed of as normal waste.
  • Nuclear power plants - nuclear power plants under current standards produce little radioactive pollution due to safety precautions that must be adhered to. Accidents at these power plants can cause dangerously high radioactive pollution, such as in the case of Chernobyl, the most well-known and worst nuclear disaster in history and the more recent Fukushima, after the earthquake and tidal wave in Japan.
On the Environment

► When soil is contaminated by radioactive substances, the harmful substances are transferred into the plants growing on it. It leads to genetic mutation and affects the plant's normal functioning. Some plants may die after such exposure, while others may develop weak seeds. Eating any part of the contaminated plant, primarily fruits, poses serious health risks. Since plants are the base of all food chains, their contamination can lead to radioactive deposition all along the food web. Similarly, when radioactive waste is washed up in a water source, it can affect the entire aquatic food web.

► Both terrestrial and aquatic radioactive contamination can culminate in human consumption. Since humans are apex predators, the accumulation of radioactive materials on the last rung of the food chain would be maximum.

On Human Beings

► The impact of radioactive pollution on human beings can vary from mild to fatal; the magnitude of the adverse effects largely depends on the level and duration of exposure to radioactivity. Low levels of localized exposure may only have a superficial effect and cause mild skin irritation. Effects of long, but low-intensity exposures include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of hair, bruises due to subcutaneous bleeding etc.

► Long-term exposure or exposure to high amounts of radiation can have far more serious health effects. Radioactive rays can cause irreparable damage to DNA molecules and can lead to a life-threatening condition. Prolonged exposure leads to a large number of molecules in the body being ionized into free radicals. Free radicals promote the growth of cancerous cells, i.e. tumors, in the body. People with heavy radiation exposure are at a very high risk for cancers.

► The rapidly growing/dividing cells, like those of the skin, bone marrow, intestines, and gonads are more sensitive towards radioactive emissions. On the other hand, cells that do not undergo rapid cell division, such as bone cells and nervous cells, aren't damaged so easily.

Skin cancer, lung cancer and thyroid cancer are some of the common types of cancers caused by radiation.

► The effects of genetic mutation are passed on to the future generations as well. In other words, if the parents are exposed to nuclear radiation, their child could have severe congenital birth defects, both physical and mental. This is tragically illustrated in the case of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, where the aftereffects of nuclear radiation were carried on for generations, and thousands of children were born with physical abnormalities and mental retardation. The radiation also brought about a spike in cancer; the region still (after more than 65 years) has a much higher rate of cancer and congenital abnormalities than the rest of Japan.
  • Geological disposal – this is, effectively, the burying of radioactive material. Large geologic formations are located and tunnels as deep as 1000m underground are drilled. Rooms are then excavated at the bottom of these and radioactive material is stored here until it has decayed enough to not be dangerous any more. Radioactive waste has also previously been dumped into the world’s oceans but following the sixteenth meeting of the LDC (London Dumping Convention) in 1993, the dumping of radioactive waste into the sea is banned, permanently.
  • Transmutation – transmutation of radioactive waste is the process of consuming this radioactive waste and turning it into less harmful waste. This is currently not used very often due to high costs, however, research is being done to make the process more efficient and more economically viable. This currently is our most environmentally friendly radioactive waste management technique and, as such, when perfected will effectively solve the problem of radioactive waste.
  • Re-use of radioactive waste – some radioactive isotopes, such as strontium-90 and caesium-137 are able to be extracted for use in other industries such as food irradiation. The re-use of radioactive waste means that the quantity of waste produced is reduced, so this serves as another good environmentally friendly management scheme.
  • Space disposal – space disposal is not currently used to reduce radioactive pollution, due to the potential problems which could occur when attempting to carry out the procedure. If, for example, a rocket used to launch the waste fails (and bear in mind that many rockets would have to be used due to the large amount of radioactive waste) then huge amounts of radioactive material would be released into the atmosphere, causing significant health risks to people within thousands of miles of the launch. Sometime in the future this may be possible, however, for now, it is best for us to avoid space disposal
Thermal pollution
Thermal pollution is an increase in the temperature of a body of water because of human or environmental causes

  • Industrial Effluents- Industries require cooling water for heat removal and cooling purposes. This heated water when discharged into the water system increases the temperature of water body.
  • Nuclear Power plants-Nuclear power plants emit large quantity of heat and traces of radioactive substances which increases the temperature of water bodies.
  • Coal- fired power plants- It is one of the major source of thermal pollution.
  • Domestic sewage-When the domestic sewage is disposed off into water bodies like river, lakes etc it increases the temperature of receiving water.
  • Radioactive waste- Dumping of radioactive waste in marine system increases the temperature when these substances radiate energy.
  • Removal of trees along the shore line  increases solar incidence and  hence warms up  the water along with deforestation

  • Thermal shock: Due to decrease in DO levels there is suffocation of plants and animal species which creates anaerobic conditions .The sudden change in the temperature causes harm to the aquatic organisms.

  • Thermal enrichment:  The heated water is used for irrigation purposes to extend plant growing seasons. The warmer water also increases the metabolic rate of aquatic organisms (which in turn decreases the life expectancy of these organisms). The speedy growth is beneficial for commercial purposes

  • Construction of cooling ponds --artificial water bodies for cooling due to radiation, convection and radiation.
  • Construction of cooling towers for radiation.
  • Use cogeneration where the heat  is recycled.
  • Use Less Electricity-Generation of electric power uses the largest percentage of cooling water, thus reducing the amount of electricity that is used will reduce thermal pollution. Although there is an increasing number of power-generating plants, the amount of thermal pollution has not increased at the same rate because of improved efficiency of power plants and the increased use of hydropower. An increase in the use of nuclear power won't reduce the need for cooling waters since they also use cooling water.
  • Reduce Temperature and Volume of Discharge-Heated water can be cooled before releasing it, and less can be released to cause less damage. Unfortunately, the cheapest and easiest way to get cooling water is to withdraw it from a nearby body of water and then release it back into the body of water heated. The warmer temperature water lowers the oxygen content of the water, which increases the respiratory rates of aquatic organisms and weakens them so that they are more vulnerable to disease and death. Releasing the heated water near the shoreline doesn't lessen the problem since this may disrupt spawning and kill fish
  • Store and Reuse Heated Water-It would reduce thermal pollution if those using cooling water were to empty the heated water into shallow ponds or canals, wait for it to cool and then reuse the water; land availability is a hindrance to this method, but this is the idea behind using cooling towers. A cooling tower is an efficient way to reduce thermal pollution because it transfers the heat from the water into the atmosphere. Cooling towers are wet or dry. The rejection of heat into a dry tower is evaporative and raises the relative humidity. According to the Cooling Technology Institute, the cooling potential of a wet surface is much better because there is less evaporative heat transferred into the atmosphere.
  • Discharge in Less Vulnerable Zones-Discharging in less vulnerable zones is not the best way to reduce thermal pollution. In the past scientists have called it thermal enrichment to release heated water, most scientist don't consider it enrichment at all and feel that addition to any zone causes thermal pollution. Certainly, however, there would be fewer fish and aquatic organisms killed by thermal shock if there were fewer fish and organisms in the area where the water is discharged.

Soil pollution
soil pollution is defined or can be described as the contamination of soil of a particular region.  --Causes--
  • Industrial wastes such as harmful gases and chemicals, agricultural pesticides, fertilizers and insecticides are the most common causes of soil pollution.
  • Ignorance towards soil management and related systems.
  • Unfavorable and harmful irrigation practices.
  • Improper septic system and management and maintenance of the same.
  • Leakages from sanitary sewage.
  • Acid rains, when fumes released from industries get mixed with rains.
  • Fuel leakages from automobiles, that get washed away due to rain and seep into the nearby soil.
  • Unhealthy waste management techniques, which are characterized by release of sewage into the large dumping grounds and nearby streams or rivers.
  • Decrease in soil fertility and therefore decrease in the soil yield. How can one expect contaminated soil to produce healthy crops?
  • Loss of soil and natural nutrients present in it. Plants also would not thrive in such soil, which would further result in soil erosion.
  • Disturbance in the balance of flora and fauna residing in the soil.
  • Increase in salinity of the soil, which therefore makes it unfit for vegetation, thus making it useless and barren.
  • Generally crops cannot grow and flourish in polluted soil. Yet, if some crops manage to grow, they would be poisonous enough to cause serious health problems in people consuming them.
  • Creation of toxic dust is another potential effect of soil pollution.
  • Foul smell due to industrial chemicals and gases might result in headaches, fatigue, nausea, etc., in many people.
  • Soil pollutants would bring in alteration in the soil structure, which would lead to death of many essential organisms in it. This would also affect the larger predators and compel them to move to other places, once they lose their food supply
  • Promote Bio Fertilizers: To increase agricultural yield, most farmers took to using chemical fertilizers. No doubt that the yield did indeed increase, but at the cost of the soil losing its fertility. To restore the fertility of the soil to what it was, will take a very long time, however, one has to start at some point of time. Drastic measures are required for the same. Farmers should be encouraged to start using bio fertilizers. The microorganisms in these fertilizers will help in increasing the fertility of the soil.
  • Promote Use of Bio Pesticides and Fungicides: To avoid soil pollution, it is important, that along with fertilizers, farmers should shift to bio pesticides and fungicides, also known as herbicides. These products will take a little longer to react, but they do not have adverse effect on the soil. It is best to use manure both as a fertilizer as well as pesticide, as it has far less side effects as opposed to its chemical counterpart.
  • Reduce Toxic Waste: If one has to look at the soil pollution facts, it will be seen that toxic waste has a big role to play in soil pollution. Hence, industrial toxic waste should be treated to reduce its toxicity before it is disposed off. At the same time, responsible methods should be used for disposing off the waste. The best, however, is to avoid the use of harmful chemicals unless they are of extreme importance.
  • Recycle Waste: Although a lot of propaganda has been carried out about recycling waste, not many measures have been taken about the same. If each family has to take it upon themselves to recycle waste, the land pollution caused due to landfills will be reduced considerably. The land so saved can be used constructively for a number of better tasks. 
  • Reuse: After plastic was invented, people thought it was convenient to opt for plastic containers, bags, etc., which could be disposed off after use. However, plastic is one of the main cause of soil pollution, as it takes a very long time to disintegrate. Therefore, people should consider shifting to reusable containers like glass, cotton bags, etc. Although paper does disintegrate faster, a lot of trees are cut for producing paper bags. Therefore, it is best to opt for cloth bags. Similarly, instead of using tissue papers in the kitchen, etc., one should opt using cloth napkins, handkerchief, etc. This will go a long way in reducing landfills. 
  • Opt for Organic Products: There is no doubt that the organic products are costly as opposed to the chemically grown products. But choosing the organic products will encourage more organic production. This will help in preventing soil pollution.
  • Deforestation: To prevent soil pollution, deforestation measures have to be undertaken at rapid pace. Soil erosion is caused, when there are no trees to prevent the top layer of the soil from being transported by different agents of nature like water and air. At the same time, measures should be taken to avoid over cropping and over grazing, as it leads to flood and soil erosion and further deterioration of the soil layer

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