Friday, March 5, 2010

Enviromental Destruction 4

Pollution is the introduction of contaminants into an environment that causes instability, disorder, harm or discomfort to the ecosystem i.e. physical systems or living organisms. Pollution can take the form of chemical substances or energy, such as noise, heat, or light. Pollutants, the elements of pollution, can be foreign substances or energies, or naturally occurring; when naturally occurring, they are considered contaminants when they exceed natural levels. Pollution is often classed as point source or nonpoint source pollution. The Blacksmith Institute issues annually a list of the world's worst polluted places. In the 2007 issues the ten top nominees are located in Azerbaijan, China, India, Peru, Russia, Ukraine and Zambia.

The major forms of pollution are listed below along with the particular pollutants relevant to each of them:

Air pollution

A government committee has estimated that 12,000 to 24,000 people in the UK die every year from the acute effects of air pollution. More die from chronic effects. Air pollution is therefore a major health issue.

In many parts of West London our air is not fit to breathe. The main source of air pollution is traffic emissions. Significant amounts also come from residential and commercial gas use, industry, construction sites and emissions from outside London. A particularly large and concentrated source of air pollution is Heathrow. Indeed, it is the biggest single source of pollution in Western Europe.

Water pollution

The quality of the water in our rivers and canals is generally not too good. They are not fit for us to swim in and they are often not too good for wildlife either. There have been improvements in recent years, but they are still far from what we would wish to see.

The Environment Agency is the government body responsible for water quality. It does some admirable work, but it suffers from the failing of most public bodies - it is not really prepared to take on those parties who are polluting our water. A notable instance has been heavy pollution of water bodies by Heathrow Airport. Nothing was being done about it by the Environment Agency until a concerted campaign was launched by local residents.

A particular class of pollutants which can get into water and which threaten our health and our wildlife are pesticides. 31,000 tonnes of pesticides are used in the UK every year. Overuse, careless use and incorrect disposal of pesticides mean that a range of dangerous chemicals get into our watercourses. Water companies have to constantly test for pesticides and removing them drinking water costs us - consumers of water - large sums of money.

Contaminated land and pollution of groundwater

There are significant areas of contaminated land in West London. This is the legacy of earlier industrial activity, at a time when looking after the environment and cleaning up after one had finished were not even considered.

There is now legislation that requires local authorities to identify contaminated land and, if necessary, make it safe. However, it has to be said that this is very low in the government's set of priorities.

Noise pollution

Noise is a common problem in modern-day life and it represents a serious threat to our quality of life. A recent survey showed that the biggest problems in London are, in order of priority:

  • Traffic noise
  • Aircraft noise
  • Neighbour noise
  • Construction noise
  • Railway noise

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