Different Types of Pollutoion: Radiation Pollution

There are a lot of different types of pollution, both indoors and outdoors, but one of the scariest for many people is radiation pollution. Threat of nuclear was has been a public concern for decades but with the end of the Cold War that risk may be lower.  Now, the threat from nuclear power plants seems almost as dangerous after the disaster at Fukushima Daiichi near Tokyo in 2011.  The Japanese nuclear emergency also raised concerns about radiation pollution circling the globe and reaching our borders.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) uses a national radiation monitoring system called RadNet.  RadNet constantly checks for radiation pollution in the air.  It also checks samples of milk and drinking water but this is done every three months.  If RadNet detects any radionucleides, sampling frequency will increase.

Indoor Radiation Pollution: Radon

Radiation pollution can come from sources other than nuclear war and nuclear disaster.  It can also  come from radon, which is a natural source of radiation.   This is an indoor air pollution concern.   Radon exposure in the home can lead to lung cancer.  There is a large public outreach department at the EPA and it has a hotline:

1-800-SOSRADON (767-7236)

You can buy a radon testing kit for your home at low cost.  Kansas State University provides the public with lots of services like resource materials, an email where you can ask questions, and a Radon website.  There, you can learn how to reduce the risk of radon exposure in your home, and in schools if you have children.  The diagram above shows all the places from which radon can seep into your home.

 The common image for air pollution is smoke billowing from a factory smokestack, or lanes of highway bumper to bumper traffic and smog.  There are actually two major types of air pollution.  The kind you can visualize easily: smog, factories, etc, is outdoor air pollution.  The other type is indoor air pollution.

Types of Indoor Air Pollution

Indoor air pollution is caused by the chemicals that are present a home.  One example would be a brand new carpet that off-gases harmful chemicals.   Another example is radon.  Radon is actually a natural gas but it’s radioactive.  It just seeps from the earth naturally but can collect in harmful amounts in basements of houses.  A simple radon detector can alert homeowners to radon buildup in their homes.

Types of Outdoor Air Pollution

Outdoor air pollution is often a type of particulate matter or ground level ozone in the air.  These are the two most commonly found types of air pollution in the outdoors.  Other types of outdoor air pollution include:

  • carbon monoxide
  • nitrogen oxides
  • lead
  • sulfur oxides

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) covers these six types of pollution and sets standards to let the public know what levels are dangerous.  They have created things like the Air Quality Index so we can measure air pollutants.  These activities are designated by the Clean Air Act, which also is responsible for ordering the EPA to create National Ambient Air Quality Standards.

These types of water pollution come from chemicals.  Rather than causing disease and fish kill-off, they cause the water to become undrinkable, also cause fish kill-off, and cause damage to human nervous system and reproductive system.

Inorganic chemicals are an obvious type of water pollution: consider lead, arsenic, acids, and selenium in the water.  this comes from surface runoff of chemicals from daily living.  This makes water undrinkable, causes cancer and other problems, damages the nervous system, and kills fish.

Organic chemicals such as oil, pesticides, detergents, and plastics from surface runoff and household cleaners (same sources as inorganic contaminated types of water pollution).

Even plant nutrients can cause water pollution.  nitrates and phosphates form fertilizers and sewage will cause some types of algae to blossom, die, decay, and then deplete water of dissolved oxygen, killing the fish.  It’s also not good to drink this water.

Other types of water pollution include:

  • thermal water pollution
  • radioactive pollution of the water
  • soil and salt from erosion entering the water

Water contamination is the original type of pollution.  Water Pollution can be caused by a myriad of terrible things but among the most serious today is types of water pollution that come from bacteria, viruses, protozoa and parasitic worms.  These contaminants are from human  and animal wastes infiltrating the water tables, seeping down into the earth and reaching the level where water runs in underground streams. The result is disease.

Most of the types of water pollution are caused by humankind and modern living.  The second category is water contaminated by oxygen-demanding wastes.  These can also come from human and animal waste but are different contaminants with different harmful effects.  Things such as sewage, paper mills, and food processing plants can dump large amounts of bacteria that deplete the water supply of oxygen.  This will kill the fish and other aquatic life.

Pollution is contamination.  Just about anything can become contaminated, which means there are more types of pollution than you ever imagined!  However, there are major types of pollution that are recognized by everyone.

Most general types of pollution are named after what they pollute: air pollution, water pollution, soil pollution for example.  But take a look at these types, which are named after what’s doing the contamination:

  • noise pollution
  • radioactive pollution
  • light pollution
  • thermal pollution

By the way, those listed above are all newer types of pollution.  One of the oldest types of pollution is water pollution.

Types of Pollution legislation

The Clean Air Act was the first in the US, enacted in 1970.  Then came The Federal Clean Water Act, which was first enacted in 1972.  We also have the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, aimed at controlling the disposal of solid waste.