Here are the 11 worst pollutants and the ones that have the most negative effects on the environment like slag and oil spill disaster.
No, that is not Nickelodeon getting rid of their leftover slime. What’s being dumped is slag. Slag is the leftover materials from ore after the desired material has already been extracted. Slag dumping was generally considered safe until recently. It has even commonly been repurposed for the process of creating cement. However, recent studies reveal that the leftover slag could be producing toxic levels of arsenic, lead, cadmium, barium, zinc and copper. The gradual weathering of the slag can pollute everything surrounding it, including the water and air. This isn’t all slag, though, the harmful effects are mostly caused by slag that is left over from refining copper, zinc, cadmium and other base metals.
4. Untreated Sewage
Sewage isn’t really something that most people like to think about, but that doesn’t stop it from being a big problem. The untreated sewage contains human feces and wastewater that, obviously, have some pretty damaging effects. Raw sewage is often dumped into water supplies in poor areas of the world because there isn’t much of an alternative. Besides causing a plethora of dangerous diseases, the waste also destroys ecosystems and lowers the oxygen contents so that no life can survive in the water. The World Health Organization estimates that 2.6 billion people were affected by raw sewage dumping because there was no other way to dispose of it. WHO is making strides in extending access to modern sewage treatment to the communities that most need it.
With the highly publicized BP Deepwater Horizon, the oil spill that happened in 2010 and is still affecting the United States and the Gulf of Mexico, the dangers of oil drilling is more well known than ever. The 580 tons of oil that were spilled wasn’t even the biggest oil spill in the world. Not even close. The biggest happened in Kuwait in 1991 when 136,000 tons of oil was spilled. Oil can devastate the local marine life. Oil is especially dangerous to animals with feathers or heavy fur because the oil can insulate them and make them more vulnerable to temperature, especially hypothermia, and reduce their buoyancy. Almost all of the birds affected by oil spills die without human intervention. Some studies say that oil spills are happening less, but that has been disputed. There has still been 9,351 accidental oil spill since 1974 and each one means that the surrounding ecosystem needs decades to recover from the accident.
2. Gold Mining
Gold is pretty. It’s the gold standard for jewelry and that pun was most definitely intended. Our country was practically founded because of it. There are two processes for mining the mineral, though, and both are insanely dangerous. The two process are the cyanide process, which is the most common today, and the mercury process. It pretty obvious that with names like that it’s going to be dangerous. Cyanide is incredibly poisonous in tiny quantities and there have been massive cyanide spills throughout time because of the industry. The cyanide leaks have been known to poison fish in local rivers for long stretches. These leaks are considered by many to be massive environmental disasters. There is also a ton of waste produced from the mining. Thirty tons of ore are disposed of for every half pound of gold mined. The ore dumps also have major levels of cadmium, lead, zinc, arsenic, selenium and mercury. The danger of these dumps is second only to the danger of radioactive waste dumps.
Radioactive waste didn’t become a real problem until the birth of the nuclear power plant. Most of the radioactive waste that the world has is caused by nuclear fission or nuclear technology. The waste is maintained by the government, but leaks have been known to happen. The most notable cases of radiation damage can be found in Chernobyl. The leak happened in 1986 and the site still isn’t considered safe. Radiation decays over time, though, so this problem is more manageable than other items on this list. If the radioactive waste is contained for the right amount of time, then it can be more safely disposed of. Without proper containment, though, the radiation can lead to death and various cancers. There are also dangers to future generations as well because it has been documented that radiation can cause severe birth defects.