Welcome to Sustainable Baby Steps

Give me 7 days and I'll have you so crunchy you'll have to change your name to Moonbeam. (Plus, you'll get inbox love from me. And everybody wants my inbox love.)

Get the Free Guide

7 Kinds of Environmental Pollution

Can you name all 7 kinds of pollution?

There are actually SEVEN different kinds of environmental pollution. Most people can name air, water and land...do you know the other four? Or examples of what constitutes actual pollution in each category?

Listed below are each kind and examples to help you understand just how we can affect the environment and each other.

Air Pollution

According to the dictionary, air pollution is the contamination of air by smoke and harmful gases, mainly oxides of carbon, sulfur, and nitrogen. (And maybe by that smelly uncle.) Some examples of air pollution include:

  • Exhuast fumes from vehicles
  • The burning of fossil fuels, such as coal, oil, or gas
  • Harmful off-gasing from things such as paint, plastic production, and so on
  • Radiation spills or nuclear accidents

Air pollution is linked to asthma, allergies and other respiratory illnesses. You can more about how the environment affects human health here.

Land Pollution

Land pollution is the degradation of the Earth's surface caused by a misuse of resources and improper disposal of waste. Some examples of land pollution include:

  • Litter found on the side of the road
  • Illegal dumping in natural habitats
  • Oil spills that happen inland
  • The use of pesticides and other farming chemicals
  • Damage and debris caused from unsustainable mining and logging practices
  • Radiation spills or nuclear accidents

Land pollution is responsible for damage done to natural habitat of animals, deforestation and damage done to natural resources, and the general ugly-ing up of our communities. (So stop being a litterbug, eh?)

Light Pollution

more stars from less light pollution

Light pollution is the brightening of the night sky inhibiting the visibility of stars and planets by the use of improper lighting of communities. Some examples of what causes light pollution:

  • Street lamps that shine light in all directions, instead of with a hood to point light downward toward the street.
  • Extra, unnecessary lights around the home
  • Cities that run lights all night long

Light pollution uses more energy (by shining more light up instead of down, meaning you need brighter bulbs for the same amount of light), may affect human health and our sleep cycles, and most importantly, corrupts our kids telescopes and their curiosity. (I grew up in a city. My first no-light night in the country blew my mind. Let's not make that such a rare occasion!)

Noise Pollution

Noise pollution is any loud sounds that are either harmful or annoying to humans and animals. Some exmaples of noise pollution:

  • Airplanes, helicopters, and motor vehicles
  • Construction or demolition noise
  • Human activities such as sporting events or concerts

Noise pollution can be disruptive to humans' stress levels, may be harmful to unborn babies, and drives animals away by causing nervousness and decreasing their ability to hear prey or predators.

Thermal Pollution

warm lake water from thermal pollution

Thermal pollution is the increase of temperature caused by human activity. A few examples of this include:

  • Warmer lake water from nearby manufacturing (using cool water to cool the plant and then pump it back into the lake)
  • Included in thermal pollution should also be the increase in temperatures in areas with lots of concrete or vehicles, generally in cities

These kinds of environmental pollution can cause aquatic life to suffer or die due to the increased temperature, can cause discomfort to communities dealing with higher temperatures, and will affect plant-life in and around the area.

Visual Pollution

Visual pollution is what you would call anything unattractive or visualing damaging to the nearby landscape. This tends to be a highly subjective topic. Some examples of visual pollution:

  • Skyscrapers that blocks a natural view
  • Graffiti or carving on trees, rocks, or other natural landscapes
  • Billboards, litter, abandoned homes, and junkyards could also be considered among three kinds of environmental pollution

Mostly, visual kinds of environmental pollution are annoying and ugly, although some may say they are also depressing, and they of course affect the surrounding landscape with the changes they cause.

When a man throws an empty cigarette package from an automobile, he is liable to a fine of $50. When a man throws a billboard across a view, he is richly rewarded. - Pat Brown

Water Pollution

river water polluted by cow manure runoff

Photo Source: Alan Liefting

Water pollution is the contamination of any body of water (lakes, groundwater, oceans, etc). Some examples of water pollution:

  • Raw sewage running into lake or streams
  • Industrial waste spills contaminating groundwater
  • Radiation spills or nuclear accidents
  • Illegal dumping of substances or items within bodies of water
  • Biological contamination, such as bacteria growth
  • Farm runoff into nearby bodies of water

These kinds of environmental pollution are linked to health issues in humans, animals and plant-life. You can read more about how the environment is affecting our health here.

7 Day Treehugger Kickstart