Pollution is the introduction of contaminants into an environment that causes instability, disorder, harm or discomfort to the physical systems or living organisms they are in. Pollution can take the form of chemical substances, or energy, such as noise, heat, or light energy. 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 non point source pollution.
Sometimes the term pollution is extended to include any substance when it occurs at such unnaturally high concentration within a system that it endangers the stability of that system. For example, water is innocuous and essential for life, and yet at very high concentration, it could be considered a pollutant: if a person were to drink an excessive quantity of water, the physical system could be so overburdened that breakdown and even death could result. Another example is the potential of excessive noise to induce imbalance in a person’s mental state, resulting in malfunction and psychosis.
TYPES OF POLLUTION
(1) AIR POLLUTION
Air Pollution, addition of harmful substances to the atmosphere resulting in damage to the environment, human health, and quality of life. One of many forms of pollution, air pollution occurs inside homes, schools, and offices; in cities; across continents; and even globally. Air pollution makes people sick—it causes breathing problems and promotes cancer—and it harms plants, animals, and the ecosystems in which they live. Some air pollutants return to Earth in the form of acid rain and snow, which corrode statues and buildings, damage crops and forests, and make lakes and streams unsuitable for fish and other plant and animal life.
Pollution is changing Earth’s atmosphere so that it lets in more harmful radiation from the Sun. At the same time, our polluted atmosphere is becoming a better insulator, preventing heat from escaping back into space and leading to a rise in global average temperatures. Scientists predict that the temperature increase, referred to as global warming, will affect world food supply, alter sea level, make weather more extreme, and increase the spread of tropical diseases.
Sources : The combustion of gasoline and other hydrocarbon fuels in automobiles, trucks, and jet airplanes produces several primary pollutants: nitrogen oxides, gaseous hydrocarbons, and carbon monoxide, as well as large quantities of particulates, chiefly lead. In the presence of sunlight, nitrogen oxides combine with hydrocarbons to form a secondary class of pollutants, the photochemical oxidants, among them ozone and the eye-stinging peroxyacetylnitrate (PAN). Nitrogen oxides also react with oxygen in the air to form nitrogen dioxide, a foul-smelling brown gas. In urban areas like Los Angeles where transportation is the main cause of air pollution, nitrogen dioxide tints the air, blending with other contaminants and the atmospheric water vapor to produce brown smog. Although the use of catalytic converters has reduced smog-producing compounds in motor vehicle exhaust emissions, recent studies have shown that in so doing the converters produce nitrous oxide, which contributes substantially to global warming.
In cities, air may be severely polluted not only by transportation but also by the burning of fossil fuels (oil and coal) in generating stations, factories, office buildings, and homes and by the incineration of garbage. The massive combustion produces tons of ash, soot, and other particulates responsible for the gray smog of cities like New York and Chicago, along with enormous quantities of sulfur oxides (which also may be result from burning coal and oil). These oxides rust iron, damage building stone, decompose nylon, tarnish silver, and kill plants. Air pollution from cities also affects rural areas for many miles downwind.
Every industrial process exhibits its own pattern of air pollution. Petroleum refineries are responsible for extensive hydrocarbon and particulate pollution. Iron and steel mills, metal smelters, pulp and paper mills, chemical plants, cement and asphalt plants—all discharge vast amounts of various particulates. Uninsulated high-voltage power lines ionize the adjacent air, forming ozone and other hazardous pollutants. Airborne pollutants from other sources include insecticides, herbicides, radioactive fallout, and dust from fertilizers, mining operations, and livestock feedlots.
Effects on Health and Environment : Like photochemical pollutants, sulfur oxides contribute to the incidence of respiratory diseases. Acid rain, a form of precipitation that contains high levels of sulfuric or nitric acids, can contaminate drinking water and vegetation, damage aquatic life, and erode buildings. When a weather condition known as a temperature inversion prevents dispersal of smog, inhabitants of the area, especially children and the elderly and chronically ill, are warned to stay indoors and avoid physical stress. The dramatic and debilitating effects of severe air pollution episodes in cities throughout the world—such as the London smog of 1952 that resulted in 4,000 deaths—have alerted governments to the necessity for crisis procedures. Even everyday levels of air pollution may insidiously affect health and behavior. Indoor air pollution is a problem in developed countries, where efficient insulation keeps pollutants inside the structure. In less developed nations, the lack of running water and indoor sanitation can encourage respiratory infections. Carbon monoxide, for example, by driving oxygen out of the bloodstream, causes apathy, fatigue, headache, disorientation, and decreased muscular coordination and visual acuity.
Air pollution may possibly harm populations in ways so subtle or slow that they have not yet been detected. For that reason research is now under way to assess the long-term effects of chronic exposure to low levels of air pollution—what most people experience—as well as to determine how air pollutants interact with one another in the body and with physical factors such as nutrition, stress, alcohol, cigarette smoking, and common medicines. Another subject of investigation is the relation of air pollution to cancer, birth defects, and genetic mutations.
A recently discovered result of air pollution are seasonal “holes” in the ozone layer in the atmosphere above Antarctica and the Arctic, coupled with growing evidence of global ozone depletion. This can increase the amount of ultraviolet radiation reaching the earth, where it damages crops and plants and can lead to skin cancer and cataracts. This depletion has been caused largely by the emission of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) from refrigerators, air conditioners, and aerosols. The Montreal Protocol of 1987 required that developed nations signing the accord not exceed 1986 CFC levels. Several more meetings were held from 1990 to 1997 to adopt agreements to accelerate the phasing out of ozone-depleting substances.
Techniques for controlling Pollution : The best way to protect air quality is to reduce pollutant emissions by changing to fuels and processes that are less polluting. Pollutants that are not eliminated in this way must be collected or trapped by appropriate air-cleaning devices as they are generated and before they can escape into the atmosphere. This discussion focuses on the control of ambient air pollution from stationary sources, including power plants and industrial facilities. The control of air pollution from mobile sources is discussed separately in the articles emission control system and automobile. Many types of air-cleaning devices exist for removing particulate and gaseous air pollutants. They are applicable to both air toxics and criteria pollutants.
(2) WATER POLLUTION
When toxic substances enter lakes, streams, rivers, oceans, and other water bodies, they get dissolved or lie suspended in water or get deposited on the bed. This results in the pollution of water whereby the quality of the water deteriorates, affecting aquatic ecosystems. Pollutants can also seep down and affect the groundwater deposits.
Water pollution has many sources. The most polluting of them are the city sewage and industrial waste discharged into the rivers. The facilities to treat waste water are not adequate in any city in India. Presently, only about 10% of the waste water generated is treated; the rest is discharged as it is into our water bodies. Due to this, pollutants enter groundwater, rivers, and other water bodies. Such water, which ultimately ends up in our households, is often highly contaminated and carries disease-causing microbes. Agricultural run-off, or the water from the fields that drains into rivers, is another major water pollutant as it contains fertilizers and pesticides.
Sources : Industries, towns and municipalities are major sources of water pollution. In many public water systems, pollution exceeds safe levels. One reason for this is that much groundwater has been contaminated by wastes pumped underground for disposal or by seepage from surface water. When contamination reaches underground water tables, it is difficult to correct and spreads over wide areas. In addition, many U.S. communities discharge untreated or only partially treated sewage into the waterways, threatening the health of their own and neighboring populations.
Along with domestic wastes, sewage carries industrial contaminants and a growing tonnage of paper and plastic refuse (see solid waste). Although thorough sewage treatment would destroy most disease-causing bacteria, the problem of the spread of viruses and viral illness remains. Additionally, most sewage treatment does not remove phosphorus compounds, contributed principally by detergents, which cause eutrophication of lakes and ponds. Excreted drugs and household chemicals also are not removed by present municipal treatment facilites, and can be recycled into the drinking water supply.
Rain drainage is another major polluting agent because it carries such substances as highway debris (including oil and chemicals from automobile exhausts), sediments from highway and building construction, and acids and radioactive wastes from mining operations into freshwater systems as well as into the ocean. Also transported by rain runoff and by irrigation return-flow are animal wastes from farms and feedlots, a widespread source of pollutants impairing rivers and streams, groundwater, and even some coastal waters. Antibiotics, hormones, and other chemicals used to raise livestock are components of such animal wastes. Pesticide and fertilizer residues from farms also contribute to water pollution via rain drainage.
Effects on Health and Environment : Notable effects of water pollution include those involved in human health. Nitrates (the salts of nitric acid) in drinking water can cause a disease in infants that sometimes results in death. Cadmium in sludge-derived fertilizer can be absorbed by crops; if ingested in sufficient amounts, the metal can cause an acute diarrhoeal disorder and liver and kidney damage. The hazardous nature of inorganic substances such as mercury, arsenic, and lead has long been known or strongly suspected.
Lakes are especially vulnerable to pollution. One problem, eutrophication, occurs when lake water becomes artificially enriched with nutrients, causing abnormal plant growth. Run-off of chemical fertilizer from cultivated fields may trigger this. The process of eutrophication can produce aesthetic problems such as bad tastes and odours and unsightly green scums of algae, as well as dense growth of rooted plants, oxygen depletion in the deeper waters and bottom sediments of lakes, and other chemical changes such as precipitation of calcium carbonate in hard waters. Another problem, of growing concern in recent years, is acid rain, which has left many lakes in northern and eastern Europe and north-eastern North America totally devoid of life.
Control of Water Pollution : Since water plays such a vital role in life on earth, good quality water is a precious resource. Often water quality is more important than water quantity. The quality of the water affects the use we make of it, but the reverse is also true. Once we have used the water, we affect its quality.
This circular process indicates that the traditional habit of discharging untreated sewage and chemical wastes directly into rivers, lakes, estuaries of oceans for eventual “assimilation” into the environment is no longer acceptable – either technically of morally.
The explosion in human population and industrial activities, and the rate at which new chemicals and products are being developed and used pose a global environmental threat. The natural decay processes in water bodies can no longer cope with these loads.
(3) NOISE POLLUTION
When unwanted sound created by human beings hits our ears and disturbs the environment, noise pollution is created. Chiefly, noise pollution comes from barking dogs, loud music, vehicles, aircraft and rail transport, air-conditioners, factories, amplified music and construction work.
Sources : The overarching cause of most noise worldwide is generated by transportation systems, principally motor vehicle noise, but also including aircraft noise and rail noise. Hybrid vehicles for road use are the first widely sold automobiles in 100 years to achieve significant noise source reduction. Poor urban planning may also give rise to noise pollution, since juxtaposition of industrial to residential land uses, for example, often results in adverse consequences for the residential acoustic environment.
Besides transportation noise, other prominent sources are office equipment, factory machinery, appliances, power tools, lighting hum and audio entertainment systems. With the popularity of digital audio player devices, individuals in a noisy area might increase the volume in order to drown out ambient sounds. Construction equipment also produces noise pollution.
Noise from recreational off-highway vehicles (OHVs) is becoming a serious problem in rural areas. ATVs, also known as quads or four wheelers, have increased in popularity and are joining the traditional two wheeled dirt motorcycles for off-road riding.
The noise from ATV machines is quite different from that of the traditional dirt bike. The ATVs have large bore, four stroke engines that produce a loud throaty growl that will carry further due to the lower frequencies involved. The traditional two stroke engines on dirt bikes have gotten larger and, while they have higher frequencies, they still can propagate the sound for a mile or more. The noise produced by these vehicle is particularly disturbing due to the wide variations in frequency and volume.
Recreational off-road vehicles are generally not required to be registered and the control of the noise they emit is absent in most communities. However, there is a growing awareness that operation of these machines can seriously degrade the quality of life of those within earshot of the noise and some communities have enacted regulations, either by imposing limits on the sound or through land use laws. Rider organizations are also beginning to recognize the problem and are enlightening members as to future restrictions on riding if noise is not curtailed.
Effects on Health and Environment :
(1) Human health : Noise pollution disturbs our health and behavior in a number of ways including deafness causing lack of sleep, irritability, indigestion, heartburn, high blood pressure, ulcers, and heart disease. Just one noise explosion from a passing truck drastically alters our endocrinal, neurological, and cardiovascular functions in many individuals. If this is prolonged or frequent, the physiological disturbances become chronic and contribute to mental illness.
(2) Annoyance: Sometimes, even low levels of noise are irritating and can be frustrating, and high volumes can be annoying. Natural sounds are less irritating than those we find uncontrollable but intermittent sounds such as a tap dripping water can be more irritating than the sound of falling rain.
(3) Speech interference: Noise more than 50dB can be very difficult to hear and interpret and cause problems such as partial deafness.
(4) Sleep interference: Very high levels of noise can wake people from their sleep with a jerk and keep them awake or disturb their sleep pattern. This could make them irritable and tired the next day.
(5) Decreased work performance: Increased noise levels gives rise to a lack of concentration and accuracy at work, and reduce one’s productivity and performance. Difficult tasks can be impaired, and instructions or warnings difficult to be heard and interpreted, causing accidents.
Techniques for controlling Noise Pollution : There are a variety of strategies for mitigating roadway noise including: use of noise barriers, limitation of vehicle speeds, alteration of roadway surface texture, limitation of heavy duty vehicles, use of traffic controls that smooth vehicle flow to reduce braking and acceleration, and tyre design. An important factor in applying these strategies is a computer model for roadway noise, that is capable of addressing local topography, meteorology, traffic operations and hypothetical mitigation. Costs of building-in mitigation can be modest, provided these solutions are sought in the planning stage of a roadway project.
Aircraft noise can be reduced to some extent by design of quieter jet engines, which was pursued vigorously in the 1970s and 1980s. This strategy has brought limited but noticeable reduction of urban sound levels. Reconsideration of operations, such as altering flight paths and time of day runway use, have demonstrated benefits for residential populations near airports. FAA sponsored residential retrofit (insulation) programs initiated in the 1970s has also enjoyed success in reducing interior residential noise in thousands of residences across the United States.
(4) LAND POLLUTION
Land pollution basically is about contaminating the land surface of the Earth through dumping urban waste matter indiscriminately, dumping of industrial waste, mineral exploitation, and misusing the soil by harmful agricultural practices. Land pollution includes visible litter and waste along with the soil itself being polluted. The soil gets polluted by the chemicals in pesticides and herbicides used for agricultural purposes along with waste matter being littered in urban areas such as roads, parks, and streets.
(1) Increase in urbanization : Construction uses up forestland. More constructions means increase in demand for raw materials like timber. This leads to the exploitation and destruction of forests. There is more demand for water. Reservoirs are built leading to the loss of land.
(2) Increase in agricultural land : As the human population grew there was a greater demand for food. This caused more land allocated to agriculture. Forests were cut down for this purpose.
(3) Domestic waste : Every single day, tons and tons of domestic waste is dumped ranging from huge pieces of rubbish such as unused refrigerator to fish bones. If all these wastes are not disposed of properly, the damage they can do to the environment and humankind can be devastating. While waste collected from homes, offices and industries may be recycled or burnt in incinerators, a large amount of rubbish is neither burnt nor recycled but is left in certain areas marked as dumping grounds. We throw away more things today and there is an increase in the quantity of solid waste. This has given rise to problems as new dumping grounds have to be found.
(4) Agricultural activities : Besides domestic waste, pesticides and herbicides used by farmers to increase crop yields also pollute the land when they are washed into the soil.
(5) Industrial activities : Industrial activities also are a contributing factor to land pollution. For example, in open cast mining, huge holes are dug in the ground and these form dangerously deep mining pools. Heaps of mining waste are left behind and these waste often contain several poisonous substances that will contaminate the soil.
Pollution sources include plastics factories, chemical plants, oil refineries, nuclear waste disposal activity, large animal farms, coal-fired power plants, metals production factories and other heavy industry.
Effects on Health and Environment : The effects of land pollution are far-ranging in the industrial age. The nature of the industrial revolution and the lack of a sustainable development model for industrial progress have allowed the creation of chemicals and products which may serve the idea of convenience or productivity or efficiency, however, the concept of environmental stewardship is largely an afterthought. This has led to long-lasting chemicals which persist in the environment and are potentially toxic to life.
The effects of pollution on the land are not limited to the terrestrial ecosystem, because the synthetic chemicals are not degraded by the normal processes of life. From there, the pollution can travel through the roots of plants into any herbivore which consumes the plant and on and on and on until it reaches the highest organisms in the food web: humans.
Control Measures :
The following measures can be used to control land pollution:
(1) Anti-litter campaigns can educate people against littering,
(2) Organic waste can be dumped in places far from residential areas, and
(3) Inorganic materials such as metals, glass and plastic, but also paper, can be reclaimed and recycled.
(5) RADIOACTIVE POLLUTION
Radioactive pollution can be defined as the release of radioactive substances or high-energy particles into the air, water, or earth as a result of human activity, either by accident or by design. The sources of such waste include: (1) nuclear weapon testing or detonation; (2) the nuclear fuel cycle, including the mining, separation, and production of nuclear materials for use in nuclear power plants or nuclear bombs; (3) accidental release of radioactive material from nuclear power plants. Sometimes natural sources of radioactivity, such as radon gas emitted from beneath the ground, are considered pollutants when they become a threat to human health.
Since even a small amount of radiation exposure can have serious (and cumulative) biological consequences, and since many radioactive wastes remain toxic for centuries, radioactive pollution is a serious environmental concern even though natural sources of radioactivity far exceed artificial ones at present.
The problem of radioactive pollution is compounded by the difficulty in assessing its effects. Radioactive waste may spread over a broad area quite rapidly and irregularly (from an abandoned dump into an aquifer, for example), and may not fully show its effects upon humans and organisms for decades in the form of cancer or other chronic diseases.
Sources of Radioactive Pollution : In the United States, people are typically exposed to about 350 millirems of ionizing radiation per year. On average, 82% of this radiation comes from natural sources and 18% from anthropogenic sources (i.e., those associated with human activities). The major natural source of radiation is radon gas, which accounts for about 55% of the total radiation dose. The principal anthropogenic sources of radioactivity are medical X-rays and nuclear medicine. Radioactivity from the fallout of nuclear weapons testing and from nuclear power plants make up less than 0.5% of the total radiation dose, i.e., less than 2 millirems. Although the contribution to the total human radiation dose is extremely small, radioactive isotopes released during previous atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons will remain in the atmosphere for the next 100 years.
Types and effects of radioactive pollution :
(1) UV Rays. Short waves having wavelength 100-300 nm and having high energy UV rays of 260nm wavelength are most effective against DNA. It damages the cells of cornea leading to permanent blindness. It injures cells of germinative layer of skin and produces blisters and reddening of skin (skin cancer). Normally our skin possess pigmentation to protect against UV rays but some lack this pigmentation and are more probable cases. This state is called xeroderma pigmentosum. UV rays increase incidences of cancer and mutations in man.
(2) Cosmic rays. They have radiations less than 0.001Å having high energy sufficient to disintegrate every organic compound on which they fall. But fortunately they are trapped in stratosphere and only a little amount reaches the earth.
Other radiations are X-rays, background radiations from nuclear fall out which have reached to such an extent they have slowed evolution of various organisms on earth.
(6) THERMAL POLLUTION
Thermal Pollution, harmful increase in water temperature in streams, rivers, lakes, or occasionally, coastal ocean waters. Thermal pollution is caused by either dumping hot water from factories and power plants or removing trees and vegetation that shade streams, permitting sunlight to raise the temperature of these waters. Like other forms of water pollution, thermal pollution is widespread, affecting many lakes and vast numbers of streams and rivers in the United States and other parts of the world. A temperature increase as small as 1 or 2 Celsius degrees (about 2 to 4 Fahrenheit degrees) can kill native fish, shellfish, and plants, or drive them out in favor of other species, often with undesirable effects.
Sources : The major sources of thermal pollution are electric power plants and industrial factories. In most electric power plants, heat is produced when coal, oil, or natural gas is burned or nuclear fuels undergo fission to release huge amounts of energy. This heat turns water to steam, which in turn spins turbines to produce electricity. After doing its work, the spent steam must be cooled and condensed back into water. To condense the steam, cool water is brought into the plant and circulated next to the hot steam. In this process, the water used for cooling warms 5 to 10 Celsius degrees (9 to 18 Fahrenheit degrees), after which it may be dumped back into the lake, river, or ocean from which it came. Similarly, factories contribute to thermal pollution when they dump water used to cool their machinery.
The second type of thermal pollution is much more widespread. Streams and small lakes are naturally kept cool by trees and other tall plants that block sunlight. People often remove this shading vegetation in order to harvest the wood in the trees, to make room for crops, or to construct buildings, roads, and other structures. Left unshaded, the water warms by as much as 10 Celsius degrees (18 Fahrenheit degrees). In a similar manner, grazing sheep and cattle can strip stream sides of low vegetation, including young trees. Even the removal of vegetation far away from a stream or lake can contribute to thermal pollution by speeding up the erosion of soil into the water, making it muddy. Muddy water absorbs more energy from the sun than clear water does, resulting in further heating. Finally, water running off of artificial surfaces, such as streets, parking lots, and roofs, is warmer than water running off vegetated land and, thus, contributes to thermal pollution.
Effects on Health and Environment :
All plant and animal species that live in water are adapted to temperatures within a certain range. When water in an area warms more than they can tolerate, species that cannot move, such as rooted plants and shellfish, will die. Species that can move, such as fish, will leave the area in search of cooler conditions, and they will die if they can not find them. Typically, other species, often less desirable, will move into the area to fill the vacancy.
In general, cold waters are better habitat for plants and animals than warm ones because cold waters contain more dissolved oxygen. Many freshwater fish species that are valued for sport and food, especially trout and salmon, do poorly in warm water. Some organisms do thrive in warm water, often with undesirable effects. Algae and other plants grow more rapidly in warm water than in cold, but they also die more rapidly; the bacteria that decompose their dead tissue use up oxygen, further reducing the amount available for animals. The dead and decaying algae make the water look, taste, and smell unpleasant.
Control of Thermal Pollution : Thermal pollution from power plants and factories is relatively easy to control. Instead of discharging heated water into lakes and streams, power plants and factories can pass the heated water through cooling towers or cooling ponds, where evaporation cools the water before it is discharged. Alternatively, power plants can be designed or refitted to be more efficient and to produce less waste heat in the first place. In a process called cogeneration, the excess heat energy from generating electricity can be used in another manufacturing process that needs such energy. Where homes or other buildings are located near industrial plants, waste hot water can be used for heating—an arrangement often found in Scandinavian towns and cities, and proposed for use in China.
To prevent thermal pollution due to devegetation, the prescription is simple: do not devegetate. Landowners can leave strips of trees and vegetation along streams and shorelines. Grazing livestock can be kept away from streamsides by fencing. All efforts to control erosion also have the effect of keeping water clearer and, thus, cooler.
As a practical matter, however, thermal pollution from devegetation is quite hard to control because it is caused by the cumulative effect of many peoples’ actions, most of which are individually minor. Regulations focus on a few of the most important threats. Grazing management plans, for instance, are intended to counter thermal pollution and other problems on lands owned by the federal government. In the United States, regulations governing logging on both public and private lands supposedly protect streamsides, though enforcement is often lax. Elsewhere, streamside protection is largely up to private landowners, encouraged and aided by such advisory organizations as the federal Natural Resources Conservation Service and cooperative Resource Conservation Districts.
IMPACTS OF POLLUTION
Because humans are at the top of the food chain, they are particularly vulnerable to the effects of nondegradable pollutants. This was clearly illustrated in the 1950s and 1960s when residents living near Minamata Bay, Japan, developed nervous disorders, tremors, and paralysis in a mysterious epidemic. More than 400 people died before authorities discovered that a local industry had released mercury into Minamata Bay. This highly toxic element accumulated in the bodies of local fish and eventually in the bodies of people who consumed the fish. More recently research has revealed that many chemical pollutants, such as DDT and PCBs, mimic sex hormones and interfere with the human body’s reproductive and developmental functions. These substances are known as endocrine disrupters.
Pollution also has a dramatic effect on natural resources. Ecosystems such as forests , wetlands , coral reefs , and rivers perform many important services for Earth’s environment. They enhance water and air quality , provide habitat for plants and animals, and provide food and medicines. Any or all of these ecosystem functions may be impaired or destroyed by pollution. Moreover, because of the complex relationships among the many types of organisms and ecosystems, environmental contamination may have far-reaching consequences that are not immediately obvious or that are difficult to predict. For instance, scientists can only speculate on some of the potential impacts of the depletion of the ozone layer , the protective layer in the atmosphere that shields Earth from the Sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays.
Because of the many environmental tragedies of the mid-20th century, many nations instituted comprehensive regulations designed to repair the past damage of uncontrolled pollution and prevent future environmental contamination. In the United States, the Clean Air Act (1970) and its amendments significantly reduced certain types of air pollution, such as sulfur dioxide emissions. The Clean Water Act (1977) and Safe Drinking Water Act (1974) regulated pollution discharges and set water quality standards. The Toxic Substances Control Act (1976) and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (1976) provided for the testing and control of toxic and hazardous wastes. In 1980 Congress passed the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), also known as Superfund, to provide funds to clean up the most severely contaminated hazardous waste sites. These and several other federal and state laws helped limit uncontrolled pollution, but progress has been slow and many severe contamination problems remain due to lack of funds for cleanup and enforcement.
Nongovernmental citizen groups have formed at the local, national, and international level to combat pollution problems worldwide. Many of these organizations provide information and support for people or organizations traditionally not involved in the decision-making process. The Pesticide Action Network provides technical information about the effects of pesticides on farmworkers. The Citizen’s Clearinghouse for Hazardous Waste, established by veterans of the Love Canal controversy, provides support for communities targeted for hazardous waste installations. A well-organized, grassroots, environmental justice movement has arisen to advocate equitable environmental protections. Greenpeace is an activist organization that focuses international attention on industries and governments known to contaminate land, sea, or atmosphere with toxic or solid wastes. Friends of the Earth International is a federation of international organizations that fight environmental pollution around the world.