One of the most serious problems that humanity is facing these days is environmental pollution, which means the destruction of our surroundings (World Book editors, 1995). There are many ways by which our environment can be polluted, one of which is through water. Water pollution, defined as “any biological, chemical, or physical change in water quality that has a harmful effect on living organisms or makes water unsuitable for desired uses” (Think Quest Team “Fish”, 2005), is very rampant in the United States. It is caused by pollutants that can be categorized three ways: 1) biological; 2) chemical; and 3) physical.
Biological pollutants are those that enter the environment from human and animal wastes. Examples of this kind of pollutants are viruses, protozoas, and parasitic worms (Think Quest Team “Fish”, 2005).
On the other hand, there are four kinds of chemical pollutants: heavy metals, nutrients, oil, and radioactive waste. Heavy metals are naturally found in bed rocks but may also be carried into water via industrial sources and household chemicals. Given that the United States is highly-industrialized, it is but natural that heavy metals are considered the biggest source of pollution in the country. In fact, half the volume of water pollution in the U.S. is due to heavy metals. It is said that large amounts of fresh water in the country is used to carry wastes of some 370,000 manufacturing facilities.
Some heavy metals that pollute the American waters are mercury, lead, cadmium, arsenic, aluminum. The second type of chemical pollutant, nutrients, causes eutrophication – nitrogen and phosphorous (usually acquired from animal wastes, agricultural runoff, and sewages) enter a body of water in large amounts, lowering levels of dissolved oxygen needed by fishes. Oil, which is the third type of chemical pollutant, is introduced to bodies of water by large and small sea crafts that accidentally spill oil or purposely dump storm drains. The last kind of chemical pollutant is radioactive waste. Examples of this kind of chemical pollutant are isotopes of iodine radon, uranium, cesium, and thorium, Oil and radioactive wastes, like heavy metals, are also considered topmost reasons for water pollution in the U.S. (Think Quest Team “Fish”, 2005; Columbia University Press, 2001)
Sediments – solid materials that are indissoluble in water – are induced to water through rain drainage. They are just one type of physical pollutants that cause water pollution in the States. Another type is heat, which occurs when manufacturing plants release hot water. (Think Quest Team “Fish”, 2005)
Water pollution is undoubtedly detrimental to the physical form of United States and to the people living in it. It has already been surveyed that 44% of lakes, 37% of rivers, and 32% of estuaries are now useless for drinking supply, fishing, and swimming. The pollutants that are introduced to the bodies of water can cause harm to the creatures under the sea and can disrupt the natural processes that keep underwater activity normal. For example, sediments that settle on the bottom of the ocean reduce underwater photosynthesis and disrupt aquatic food webs. Eutrophication, which as mentioned is caused by the influx of nutrients in water, may kill numerous fishes that could have otherwise served as food for human beings. (Think Quest Team “Fish”, 2005; Columbia University Press, 2001)
Also, these pollutants cause human diseases that are as simple as skin eruptions to grave cancers. Maladies like dysentery, salmonellosis, cryptosporidium, and hepatitis are transmitted from bodies of water to the people’s drinking and bathing water. The heavy metals that become mixed into water are said to cause damages to our nervous systems, kidneys, and vision. Aluminum is even pointed out as one of the causes of anemia, dementia, and even Alzheimer’s disease. (Think Quest Team “Fish”, 2005; Columbia University Press, 2001)
The grave situation of water pollution in the United States has also resulted to legislation and control of an otherwise free property. Enacting extensive federal legislation, the United States now has numerous laws – the Federal Water Pollution Control Act and Safe Drinking Water Act to name a few – to fight off water pollution. (Columbia University Press, 2001)
Nobody benefits from contributing to water pollution. In fact, everybody loses from it. Water can already be polluted through natural means, so we must all try our best not to add anymore to the destruction of the bodies of water. We must all make sure that our wastes are properly disposed of so as to prevent the rain from washing them away into the ocean. Such a simple act can go a long way in preserving water not only for this generation but for the generations to follow.
Think Quest Team “Fish”. (2005). Water. Retrieved August 16, 2007, from http://library.thinkquest.org/04oct/01590/pollution/pollutants.html.
Columbia University Press. (2001). Water Pollution. The Columbia Encyclopedia. Retrieved August 16, 2007, from http://www.bartleby.com/65/wa/watrpollu.html.
World Book editors. (1995). Environmental Pollution. In World Book Encyclopedia (Vol. 6, pp. 294-303). United States: World Book.