Why environmental pollution increases despite the usage of pollution prevention & clean-up measures
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 increased environmental pollution as highlighted a bit further in this article.
But first, what are the effects of pollutants on environment?
Pollutants discharged into the environment have 3 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 pollutants are created or discharged.
- the second is by pollution prevention (or input pollution control) which eliminates, prevents, or at least reduces the 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, 3 major noticeable factors still make both measures appear ineffective in combating rising cases of environmental pollution:
(1) Rising population & consumption levels:
Due to exponential rises in population 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 using catalytic converters as a clean-up 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 part in producing thick toxic pollution that has been contributing to China’s notorious wintertime smog, and to such an extent that was previously known.
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’s environment, rather than outside. It’s even more unfortunate that a lot of waste has been improperly disposed, and 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 in another environment.
For example, people collect waste and burn it, causing air pollution and producing toxic ash which must be dumped elsewhere—probably on land—which could possibly lead to surface and underground water pollution when rainfall or water runoff transports toxic ash away from the point of disposal.
The negative impacts of dumping wastes in open bodies of water are there for everyone who cares 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 of pollution prevention & clean-up measures:
After pollutants are discharged into the environment, it’s usually challenging or difficult for governments and the people concerned to sponsor or finance prevention control and clean-up measures that would sanitize the environment, either partially or completely; another thing is that the level of difficulty depends on the type of government or people involved.
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 in order to implement ways of curbing pollution and pollutants despite the existing factors stated above.