Environmental contamination in 19th century

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Technology, innovation, and development have coexisted with environmental contamination since the 19th century, when the industrial revolution began. Pollution is the degradation of the natural ecosystem and atmosphere. This does harm to the people of the world. This study explains how several industrial sectors, both directly and indirectly, contribute to pollution by improperly disposing of organic, inorganic, or metallic pollutants. The report provides specific examples of hazardous and chronic consequences caused by the three types of industrial wastes in North America and probably globally. The paper essay also depicts the steps made by firms to mitigate the effects of the damaging products they manufacture. This can be accomplished through treatment, total elimination of disposal, or safe disposal. The paper also explains the effect of pollution to the atmosphere, soils, and water bodies and how they adversely affect life.


Toxic wastes are any byproducts released to the environment by industries and can bring harm to an individual when inhaled, absorbed to the body through the skin or ingested. These products cause pollution to the ecosystem like contaminating the air, soil and water sources and reservoirs potentially causing a health hazard. Since the industrial revolution companies and institutions have been disposing of heavy metals, radiations, pathogens, chemicals. This product, if not disposed in the right way are can cause harm and in acute situations, death to the victims (Cheremisinoff 156). Among the key toxic substances whose exposure to can be a human health risk include; arsenic, asbestos, cadmium, chromium, clinical wastes, cyanide, lead, mercury and strong acids and alkalis (Lai 94). Such wastes can either be reactive, corrosive or ignitable.

However, in the United States state environmental agencies and the Environmental Protection Agency have come up and put enforceable measures on the storage, treatment and the release of these toxic wastes. Organic wastes, for instance, can be incinerated (Pollans 107). Heavy metals, on the other hand, cannot be destroyed and hence should be stored is separate and safe containers (Fowler 219).

Organic Waste Pollution

Persistent Organic Pollutants have been a global problem for a very long time. These wastes affect the environment and human health adversely. The wastes can be transported to further locations from where they are released by wind or water and are persistent over long durations hence leading to an accumulation that can be through various species in a single food chain (Grumezescu and Holban 172). Some of the toxic organic wastes include; Agricultural wastes, manure, pesticides, and fertilizers. In most cases, Organic pollution occurs to water or soil. The accumulation of organic matter in a water reservoir or even soil leads to an equivalent increase and growth of decomposers. The aftermath is the depletion of oxygen due to the decomposition process which in turn causes the death of organisms in the soil or the aquatic living beings. The process recurs in a greater intensity due to the dead organisms which are now decomposing (Brebbia 123).

This paper reviews the PotashCorp which is located in Saskatchewan in Canada and is the largest manufacturer of fertilizers rich in Nitrogen, Phosphate, and potash (Kozai, Niu and Takagaki 233). The company controls more than 30 percent of all the world’s potash production capacity. Before getting deeper into the organic waste disposal of the company, it would be important to mention other forms of pollution linked to the company. Due to its expanded mining ventures for potash, there has been rampant complains about excessive noise, light and dust pollution. This is amid anxiety by the residents living near the mines who complain of the interference caused (Yager 321).

PotashCorp, being a major producer of fertilizers with the main raw materials being nitrogen, phosphorous and potash is a major threat to the ecosystem. For instance, Nitrogen fertilizers are composed of highly soluble nitrates that are toxic and can poison humans when accumulated. The Nitrates can also cause death to amphibians. At the company, some compounds of nitrogen are disposed as gases which contribute to acid rain which flows into water sources. Also, these nutrients do are not an advantage to the aquatic life and instead causes the growth of algae which blooms to a top layer covering the surface of the water body. This is termed as Eutrophication. This reduces the sunlight penetration, in turn, thwarting photosynthesis of the vegetation underwater and a reduction of oxygen in the water. The end process leads to the death of some aquatic organisms and fish.

To avoid the release of these waste pollutants, the company separates the wastes and transports it to a decomposing system or a compressed air exhaust system to reduce the amount of moisture in the residues. It also recycles the byproducts back to produce more fertilizers while the totally unwanted is incinerated or deposited in impermeable landfills in designated pre-constructed sites (Chiarelli and Roccheri 314).

Toxic Metallic Pollutants

Metallic pollution is caused by the release of heavy metals with a high atomic weight and density (Misra and Mani 218). Unlike organic waste matter, metallic waste is not biodegradable and once released into the environment its existence persists causing air, water, and soil pollution. Some these metallic wastes include Mercury, lead, cadmium, magnesium, chromium, nickel, zinc and arsenic. This metals occur in the earth’s crust in their natural state and are often exposed and accumulated by man’s activities such as mining, vehicle emissions, paints and industrial activities (Youcai and Chenglong 176). They can also be derived from leaching of metallic ions and displacing noncompetitive inhibitors in enzymes (Chiarelli and Roccheri) These metal pollutants come into contact with humans and the environment through manufactured products. For example, Lead can be used as a color enhancer, anti-corrosive agent, firearms and gasoline which is a major air pollutant. Plants absorb these metals through their roots which are then consumed by animals and human beings. They can also get into the human body through skin touch which on accumulation cannot be metabolized (Izuta 324).

The effects of metallic pollution are dependent on the type of metal, the compound and the exposure time. Cadmium, for instance, causes lung inflammation on acute exposure and lung cancer on chronic exposure. Lead causes Brain dysfunction on acute exposure and Anemia on chronic exposure. Mercury causes Diarrhea and fever on acute exposure while on chronic exposure it causes nausea, nephrotic syndrome, gums and mouth inflammation, tremor and the pink disease. Chromium causes gastrointestinal, destruction of red blood cells and a renal failure on acute exposure and lung cancer during chronic exposure (Rieuwerts 78).

This paper review a company in Canada, North America called the Canada Metal North America limited (CMNA). The company is one of the most diversified producers of almost all categories leads products in North America. This includes; lead anodes, electroplating, pipes and tubes, flashing, bricks, plumbing joints, lead sheets, car batteries and lead-based paints (Warren and Lemmen 278). Lead is considered one of the most poisonous metal. In acknowledgment of the ban placed on leaded fuels, it would be necessary to mention that they were the greatest threat to human beings’ health due to the poisonous fumes emitted by cars and other industries burning such fuel. However, lead pollution to the air and atmosphere did not end there. According to Warren and Lemmen (321), very high percentages of lead are recorded in the air around lead smelters such as near the Canada Metal North America. The company also gets an accumulated by-products waste of unused metals that are retained after the production of the required products.

Lead salts are released by cars and companies as fumes. Some of the particles fall to the earth’s surface hence contaminating the soil and water bodies. The lighter particles remain in the atmosphere forming clouds which and later raining back to the ground. In line with this, the metal can get into the human body through consumption of fruits and vegetables that have absorbed it. It can also be released through leaded paints, car battery chemicals, corrosion of pipes and other lead-made products (Ragazzi 99).

In the case of an acute exposure of lead poisoning, an individual may develop digestive issues, diarrhea, constipation, fatigue, headache, convulsions, weakness in the muscle, convulsions and in extreme situations it can lead to death (Diaz 55). Such exposure can happen through breathing in of the toxic fumes, skin contact during lead soldering, to children it can be through the ingestion of soil and paints with lead particles and compounds. Chronic effects include neuro-behavioral effects, muscle weaknesses, malaise, memory loss, kidney dysfunction, and cardiovascular effects (Izuta 321). It has also been identified that the exposure to lead for a long time to a specific large population may lead to lowering of the IQ (Fowler 254).

Due to the fact that metallic waste cannot decompose, the company has adopted a policy of industrial ecology, whereby waste metals are remanufactured to make alternative products. Historically, these types of waste were disposed in landfills and others burnt in incinerators. This, however, introduced potentially hazardous byproducts into the earth’s ecosystem and a pollution problem in the waiting. The recycling also creates a new venture and business opportunity for the company (Cheremisinoff 198). To avoid the release of polluted fumes during smelting, the company practices plumbosolvency and later raise the solvents ph. The company has also put measures of zero exposure to its employees and visitors by placing necessary cautions and providing protective gear for work (Warren and Lemmen 321).

Inorganic Toxic Wastes

Inorganic pollutants majorly originate from minerals and other chemical compounds. Inorganic pollutants can be inform of; grit, salt, plastic materials, oils, glycols, latex, solvents, grease, hydrocarbons, specific toxic gases, acids, pesticides and chemical cleaners. Inorganic wastes are non-biodegradable. Most of these pollute water bodies with a small fraction actually polluting soil and air. It is virulent and hazardous to aquatic living beings. For instance, oil spillage from a ship can lead to the death of a large population of aquatic life to the lack of oxygen and its non-biodegradable trait (Prasad and Shih 339).

This paper reviews the ExxonMobil Company which is gas and oil multinational company and product of the former standard oil. Its headquarters are in Texas, United States of America. It deals with the production of plastics, gasoline, polyolefin, resins diesel, and petrochemicals. The company has been in the limelight for the past decades due to inorganic waste pollution, with a history of lobbying from climatic agencies. In 1989, the company was involved in what is to date considered as the worst oil spills (Schug and Hildenbrand 183). Oil is one of the inorganic pollutants can be released to the environment from damaged transport vessels, pipelines, oil rigs or even intentionally being disposed by manufacturing companies hence becoming a long-term toxic pollutant (Diaz 76).

When the oil is spilled on soil, it becomes a poison to any wildlife and vegetation in that area. For instance, if a bird comes into contact with birds, it destroys the insulating ability of the birds’ feathers, makes it hard for them to fly and eventually leading to their death due to hypothermia. If the spillage is on the soil, it prevents Oxygen from getting to the organisms living in the soil as well as affecting the absorption of nutrients by the plants (Fingas 398). The spilled oil is carried to water bodies by flowing water. Oil toxicity is so intense that it chokes animals, plants and aquatic species to death. Floating oil patches reflect away sunlight, as well as forming a barrier to oxygen penetration. When exposed to animals, its contact with the fur hence making it difficult to float as well as leading to inability to control their body temperatures (Kato 364). Chronic exposure to oil products may lead to loss of sight of the animals and fish. The Exxon oil spill of 1989 caused the death of thousands of marine life. While some escaped the toxic poison, their food chain was distorted and eventually leading to starvation.

Light oils are also prone to ignition and can explode. The released fumes are toxic and can cause death to plants and animals that they come across. They are also toxic when inhaled by human beings and can cause irritation to the skin if touched. Heavy oils, on the other hand, are less toxic. They, however, can last for a long duration before weathering. Their presence can cause chronic health issues such as tumors (Mines 210). The toxic levels of oils wastes depend on various factors such as where it is spilled, the amount spilled and the plants and animals living in that habitat.

Oil spillage can sometimes happen accidentally without the will of a company. ExxonMobil Company has invested in weather permitting booms that can be used to control the already spilled oil. The company also uses dispersants. Dispersants are used to break the surface tension of oil patches to tinny droplets that easily soluble in water. Despite this not solving the problem wholly, it ensures protection to the environment’s inhabitants as well as making them easily biodegradable (Ahuja 145). In case of large amounts of spillage, clean up techniques such as manual recovery, use of sorbents and in-situ burning.


The world is the natural habitat of all living beings. However, human activities such as manufacturing and mining have over time deteriorated the living environment for themselves as well as other living beings. To start with, pollution is the cause of global warming which created a greenhouse effect to the world hence trapping unwanted gases into the atmosphere (Miller 52). To human beings and animals, pollution causes a number of effects such as discomfort, diseases like cancer, respiratory problems, irritation, hypothermia, deformities and generational reduction in IQ, memory loss among other health problems. Pollution in soil and water masses leads to a break in the food chain due to death of plants and other important organisms. This can in return lead to food shortages. Light oil spillages can easily be ignited to explosions leading to the ultimate threat of death of any living being on its way through either combustion or the inhalation of the poisonous fumes released from the combustion. The above essay illustrates the different possible toxic and chronic harms caused by organic, inorganic and metallic pollutants. Various governments and the United Nations agencies have over time lobbied for policies relevant to reducing pollution while coming up with treaties to regulate countries with a greater manufacturing economy.

Works Cited

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May 17, 2023
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