Wherever there is environmental clean-up, it’s expected that there should be an effective, complete or total clean-up of pollution or pollutants. On the contrary, prevention pollution and clean-up measures have rather lead to increasing environmental pollution, as highlighted in this article.
But first, what are the effects of pollutants on environment?
Pollutants discharged into the environment have three types of negative and unwanted effects. First, they degrade natural systems that support human, animal and plant life. Second, they affect the health of all living things (humans, animals and plants), and the internal structure of non-living things in the environment. Third and last, they create unpleasant and objectionable tastes, sights and smells.
Existing methods for handling pollution:
Mankind has been handling pollution in 2 major ways:
- the first is by pollution clean-up (or output pollution control) which is normally employed in cleaning up pollution, or diluting pollutants after they are created or discharged.
- the second is by pollution prevention (or input pollution control) which eliminates, prevents, or reduces production or discharge of pollutants.
Factors that increase environmental pollution despite usage of pollution prevention & clean-up measures:
Inasmuch as mankind has relied a lot on pollution prevention and clean-up, three noticeable major factors still make both measures ineffective in combating rising cases of environmental pollution:
(1) Rising population & consumption levels
Due to exponential rises in populations and consumption levels in many countries or regions of the world, pollution still increases without corresponding funding/improvement of existing pollution control measures which we might rightly call “temporary bandages of yet-to-be-healed wounds”.
For example, the use of catalytic converters in cars has reduced some forms of pollution like hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxide and carbon monoxide. On the other hand, the increase in the number of cars and total distance travelled by cars—which are as a result of increases in population—have reduced the effectiveness of catalytic converters as a clean-up measure or approach.
Catalytic converters don’t seem to have curbed air pollution to a desirable extent; in fact, in 2018, scientists from Harvard university and 2 Chinese universities reported that emissions of formaldehyde, majorly from vehicles, played a greater role in producing thick toxic pollution which has been contributing to China’s notorious wintertime smog, and to such an extent that was previously unknown.
Berkeley Earth, a non-profit organization, once estimated that 1.6 million people in China die each year from heart, lung and stroke problems caused by air pollution.
(2) Collection of waste from one environment, and disposal of the same waste in another environment
It’s unfortunate that mankind has no better option than to dispose waste within the Earth, rather than outside. It’s even more unfortunate that a lot of waste is being improperly disposed, and has wrecked the health of many human lives. Generally, disposal and clean-up have involved the removal of waste or pollutants from one environment, and disposal and pollution into another environment.
For example, people collect waste and burn it, thus causing air pollution and producing toxic ash which must be dumped elsewhere—probably on land; this could possibly lead to surface and underground water pollution when rainfall or water runoff transports the toxic ash away from the point of disposal.
The negative impacts of dumping wastes in open bodies of water are there for everyone to see: trashed rivers containing dead fish and aquatic animals surrounded by plastic products, etc. Also, the accumulation of toxins (like mercury) in the systems of many forms of marine life has resulted in seafoods that are unfit for human consumption.
(3) Lack of sufficient finance & funding for pollution prevention & clean-up measures
After pollutants are discharged into the environment, it’s usually challenging or difficult for governments and concerned persons to sponsor or finance prevention control and clean-up measures which could partially or completely sanitize the environment. Another thing to note is that the level of difficulty depends on the type of government or people living in a particular environment.
In order to address the rise in environmental pollution despite existing pollution prevention and clean-up measure, scientists, researchers, and governments need to work together, find and implement ways to curb pollution and pollutants despite the existence of the factors stated above.