Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Looming Water Crisis...Water, Water everywhere but not a drop to drink

Water sustains life on this planet. Over two-thirds of earth’s surface is covered with water. Over ninety seven percent of the planet’s water is saltwater, unfit for human use. Water pollution is a large factor that affects the earth's ecosystem. Water pollution is the contamination of water bodies and comprises of ocean pollution, river pollution, lake pollution and ground water pollution. Perhaps the most startling prediction of the twenty-first century is the looming concern about water shortage. In fact it is already happening in parts of the planet at this moment. It is not a much as a shortage of water, but a shortage of clean drinking water and water to sustain life on this planet.

The world is running out of usable water. Humans are polluting, depleting, and diverting its finite freshwater supplies so quickly, we are creating massive new deserts and generating global warming from below. This, along with variations in water availability, means that the water to produce food for human consumption, industrial processes and all the other uses is becoming scarce. Right now there are over one billion people on this planet without adequate drinking water. In many parts of the world, surface waters are too polluted for human use. Ninety per cent of wastewater in the Third World is discharged untreated. Eighty per cent of China's and 75 per cent of India's surface waters are too polluted for drinking, fishing, or even bathing. The story is the same in most of Africa and Latin America. Even in North America large water bodies like the Great Lakes are dumping spots for some heavy industries. Currently, over 80 countries, representing 40 per cent of the world’s people, are subject to serious water shortages. Conditions may get worse in the next 50 years as populations grow and as global warming disrupts rainfall patterns. Since 1950 worldwide water consumption has more than tripled and the trend is expected to continue. Water scarcity threatens economic and social gains and is a potent fuel for wars and conflict. Agriculture accounts for over 80 per cent of world water consumption. This planet faces a water crisis. A shortage of water will make a shortage of oil and other commodities seem pale in comparison. A water crisis that will hit Asia and other parts of the world is eminent if we don't change our ways.

Causes of Water Pollution:
We are polluting our water supply at an alarming rate. Water pollution has many causes and characteristics. Organic wastes such as sewage put high oxygen demands on the receiving water leading to oxygen depletion with potentially harsh impacts on the whole eco-system. Industries discharge a variety of pollutants in their wastewater including heavy metals, organic toxins, oils, and solids. Discharges can also have thermal effects, especially those from power stations, and these also reduce the available oxygen. Silt-bearing runoff from many activities including construction sites, deforestation and agriculture can also add to damaging ecological systems. Population growth alone does not account for increased water demand. Since 1900, there has been a six-fold increase in water use for only a two-fold increase in population size. Higher water usage is associated with rising standards of living and consumption. In other words a high amount of water is used to sustain our lavish style of living in the western world.

Water pollution can come from various sources. Industry and agriculture involves the use of various chemicals that can run-off into water and pollute it. Metals and solvents from industry can contaminate lakes and rivers. Petroleum is another form of chemical pollutants that usually contaminates water through oil spills. It is easy to dispose of waste by dumping it into a river or lake. In large or small amounts, discharged intentionally or accidentally, it may be carried away by the current, but will never totally vanish. It will reappear downstream in changed form or diluted. Freshwater bodies have some ability to break down some waste materials, but not in the quantities discarded by modern society. This overload that results, called pollution, eventually puts the ecosystem out of balance. Most often our waterways are being polluted by municipal, agricultural and industrial wastes, including many toxic synthetic chemicals, which cannot be broken down at all by natural processes. Even in tiny amounts, some of these substances can cause serious harm to human and animal health.

Groundwater pollution is often caused by pesticide contamination from the soil, which can infect our drinking water. Groundwater pollution occurs when contaminants find their way into the ground water area. There are many sources of these contaminants including pesticides, nitrates, salt buildup and microorganisms. Contamination of drinking water sources by sewage can occur from raw sewage overflow, septic tanks, leaking sewer lines, land application of sludge and partially treated wastewater. Sewage itself is a complex mixture and can contain many types of contaminants. Seepage overflow into drinking water sources can cause disease from the ingestion of microorganisms such as E Coli, giardia, cryptosporidium, Hepatitis A, and helminthes. Dumps and landfills are a threat to water supplies when water percolates through waste, picking up a variety of substances such as metals, minerals, organic chemicals, bacteria, viruses, explosives, flammables, and other toxic compounds. Run-off from mines and stockpiles pose a threat to drinking water sources due to the release of salts, metals, and acid drainage. Removal of salts and metals from water resources is difficult and very costly. Urban run off is another source of ground water contamination and can consist of water that has drained from man-made non-porous surfaces in densely populated areas. These surfaces consist of roads, freeways, sidewalks, roofed structures, parking lots, airports and industrial sites.

Offshore drilling is a threat to economic livelihood in coastal regions and toxic to our coastal environment. Environmentally sensitive and safe offshore drilling methods do not exist. While drilling technologies have improved, accidents can and still do happen. In addition to the dangers of oil drilling, offshore natural gas drilling has significant environmental consequences for our coast and marine life with chronic water pollution and air pollution and onshore industrialization. In addition to the threat of a major accident or spill, there are routine discharges of spent drilling mud that contain heavy metals and other toxins which accumulate in marine organisms, and produced water pumped from below the seafloor containing elevated levels of radium, which contaminate seafloor sediments and marine organisms. Also produced are substantial amounts of pollutants into the air from the massive machinery operating on each drilling rig, and the on-shore refineries and ports that will be built on our coastline? Our ocean, coastal marshes and waters, marine fisheries, and our tourism industry, are all affected from offshore drilling. Ocean transportation of oil is very risky as is noticeable by the continuous spills of oil along our coastline.

One of the most common causes of water pollution is from pesticides. Pesticides run off from farms and individual home owners into streams and rivers and are also absorbed into the ground water polluting the water that people drink and causing trouble with the fish in the rivers where the pesticides run off. Another one of the causes of water pollution are fertilizers and nutrient pollution. Nitrates and phosphates that are prevalent in the manure, sewage and chemical fertilizers that run into the streams and rivers causes excessive growth in aquatic plants and algae leading to clogged waterways and dead zones. Oil, gasoline and additives spills such as what happens when a major oil tanker has a leak is one of the causes of water pollution that gets a lot of coverage and press due to its effects on marine animals, local fisherman and coastal businesses. Oils can also seep into the waterways through the groundwater as a result of a leak or small spill. Another one of the causes of water pollution as a result of an industry is mining which exposes heavy metals ad sulfur compounds that get leached and absorbed into the ground water and make their way into the nearby water sources. Mines can continue to drain toxic elements into the water supply long after the mining has come to a close. A few additional causes of water pollution are sediment build up as a result of clear cutting, sewage and air pollution due to emissions from vehicles. A lack of water has increased the use of wastewater for farming. More than ten percent of the world's people consume foods irrigated by wastewater that often contain chemicals or disease-causing organisms.

North American Water Issues:
We in North America tend to take water for granted. Many of us in certain areas think water in infinite. We are so used to turning our taps on in our kitchen or showers and have water come out. Most of us in North America have access to fairly clean drinking water, whether it is from a tap in your kitchen or bottled water. The vast majority of us in North America have access to take a shower when we wish. Considering that less than one percent of all the water on the planet is usable freshwater, we’re not nearly as careful as we should be with this precious resource. Here are a few facts to consider how much we take water for granted in North America. Even though the average person only requires 48 liters of water on a daily basis, individuals in the United States use an average of 500 liters, those in Canada an average of 300 liters. In comparision, there are a half dozen countries in the third world that use less than 10 liters a day. The recommended basic water requirement per person per day is 50 liters. Most people can get by with about 30 litres-5 litres for cooking and drinking and another 25 for basic hygiene. It has been estimated that of all the water that enters each North American household, about 95% of it ends up down the drain. It takes an average of 300 gallons to water your lawn. During the summer months, this can account for almost half the water usage of a basic household.. There are already water shortages looming in parts of the US, such as California, Arizona and New Mexico.

However, the water in the homes and offices in the western world is not as safe as you may think. A Ralph Nader Report stated that over 2300 chemicals that can cause cancer have been detected in U.S. drinking water. Drinking water pollution is growing rapidly. North Americans use over 75,000 water pollution chemicals in total and over one thousand new ones are developed each year. Many of these chemicals will end up in our drinking water supply in one form or another. Our planet reuses and recycles the same water over again and as a consequence, there are traces of health threatening water pollution chemicals in much of our drinking water.

Over forty percent of the rivers and lakes in America are too polluted to fish in, swim in, or maintain marine life. There are many causes of water pollution. Water pollution comes from two different types of sources. A point source is a result of pollutants being emitted directly into a water body, such as a pipe from an industrial facility leaking toxics directly into the water. There is also a non point source type of polluting that is a result of pollutants being indirectly transported to the water such as run off from fertilizers flowing in to a larger body of water by rain. As well, the majority of the planet's liquid freshwater is stored in underground aquifers. When pollution enters our soil it often ends up in this water supply and is very difficult to treat.

Pharmaceutical pollution is another type of water pollution that could have major implications on wildlife, agriculture and humans. Over one trillion gallons of untreated sewage, storm water, and industrial waste are discharged into US waters annually according to the US EPA. Residues of birth control pills, antidepressants, painkillers, shampoos and a mixture of other chemicals are turning up in North American waterways. North Americans are prescribed millions of doses of prescription drugs every year and livestock are given millions more. As the body does not always absorb these drugs completely, they are excreted and now prescription drugs re showing up in our ground water, soil, waterways and even our drinking water according to findings by scientists. Conventional sewage treatments don't always purge the remnants of drugs that are disposed of. Adding to the issue are prescription drugs that aren't used, then are flushed down the toilet or put in landfills, which sequentially end up in our water. Hundreds of active pharmaceutical ingredients are used in a variety of manufacturing, including drug making. For example, lithium is used to make ceramics and treat bipolar disorder, nitroglycerin is a heart drug and also used in explosives; copper shows up in everything from pipes to contraceptives. These are just a few ingredients that often end up in our water.

Other toxic chemicals in our homes also end up in our water supply. Personal care products and household cleaning products such as bleach, fabric softener, lotion, perfume and hair dye end up in our water supply. The water coming out of our taps and showerheads is not as clean as we may believe. There is even a toxic rocket fuel ingredient that has fouled public water supplies around the United States. The ingredient, perchlorate, has been discovered in at least 395 sites in 35 states at levels some scientists say could interfere with thyroid function and cause developmental health concerns, particularly for babies and fetuses. Another major contaminate in water is atrazine. Atrazine is a widely used herbicide applied on a variety of crops such as corn and sugar cane. It is a tightly regulated chemical in regards to allotment in the levels in water. According to a USA Today report, every day, millions of Americans turn on their taps and get tap water that exceeds the legal limits for dangerous contaminants. It is estimated that up to seven million people in the United States alone get sick from drinking tap water every year.

In North America we don't take this as seriously as we should. Consider this: Providing water free of disease and toxins is ever more difficult, as old methods prove inadequate and new perils arise. Water shortages have become widespread to many regions, as record drought and population sprawl deplete rivers and lakes. Then there's the threat, unimaginable not too long ago-terrorism. It would be catastrophic if a terrorist group deliberately put biological agents in our water supply. More than half of humanity will be living with water shortages, depleted fisheries and polluted coastlines within 50 years because of a worldwide water crisis, warns a recent United Nations report. Put it all together, and it's easy to see why fears over clean drinking water might someday make the energy crisis look small in comparison.

Asian and Third World Water Issues:
According to reports from the Joint Monitoring Program for Water Supply and Sanitation by the World Heath Organization and the United Nations Children's Fund, in 2002, one out of six people lacks access to safe drinking water, that is about 1.1 billion people, and more than one third of the global population lack adequate sanitation, that is close 2.6 billion people. With access to just 5 liters of water each day, more than a billion people in water poor regions around the globe survive on the same amount of water used to flush a toilet or take a five minute shower.

Asian rivers are the most polluted in the world. They have three times as many bacteria from human waste as the global average and twenty times more lead than rivers in western industrialized countries. In 2004, water from half of the tested sections of China's seven major rivers were found to be undrinkable because of pollution. Bangladesh has some of the most polluted groundwater in the world. In this case, the contaminant is arsenic, which occurs naturally in the water sediments. Around 85% of the total area of the country has contaminated groundwater, with at least 1.2 million Bangladeshis exposed to arsenic poisoning and with millions more at risk. Poor water quality can increase the risk of cholera, typhoid fever, dysentery and other infections. Water scarcity can lead to typhus, plague and trachoma, an eye infection that can cause blindness. Much of the water in third world countries is contaminated with pathogenic bacteria, viruses, and parasites as well. In Africa, for instance, 300 million people—40 per cent of the population—live without basic sanitation and hygiene, an increase of 70 million since 1990.

China, the world’s most populated county, has serious water shortage problems caused by over-use and pollution and lots of people living in places that don't have much water. China has about the same amount of water as Canada put around 40 more times people. The water available for each person in China is one quarter of the global average. Water shortages cost China an estimated $39 billion a year in lost crops, lower industrial production and stalled economic output. According to a 2004 study 400 of 669 Chinese cities experiences water shortages, with 100 of them severe and 20 million hectares of farmland are affected by drought, cutting grain production by 28 million tons. Beijing suffers from water shortages as well. Rural areas also suffer from water shortages. More than 80 million people in rural China have to walk more than a mile for drinking water. It has greatly affected agricultural areas as well. Water shortages in China are blamed on rising demands of new industries, an expanding population, agriculture, pollution, reckless development, and poor planning.

Disease and significant deaths arise from people using contaminated water supplies. Poor water supplies particulary affect children in underdeveloped countries, where 3900 children per day die of diarrhea alone. Malaria, borne by water-breeding mosquitoes, is the biggest killer, killing one to two million a year. At any given time close to 100 million people are affected by malaria. Intestinal worms infect about ten percent of the world’s population. About 200 million people are affected by schistosomiasis (bilharzia), with 200,000 dying each year. After peaking in the late 1980s, guinea- worm infections have been declining as water sources are better monitored.

Corporate Water Exploitation:
The 2008 Global Corruption Report states that corruption in the water sector is affecting the entire world. The report also suggests that corruption has become the root cause and catalyst for the global water crisis. According to the report, overuse and pollution have made water-based ecosystems the world's most degraded natural resource, and by 2025 more than 3 billion people could be living in water stressed countries. Some powerful corporations seek to control water supplies in many areas of the world. They do this for their own benefits in many cases, even though, they promise at first it will improve the lives of citizens living in those areas. In many cases it does not improve the lives of citizens in that area. In fact it often makes matters worse. The policies of privatization imposed through the World Bank and rules of trade liberalization being negotiated in the World Trade Organization (WTO) under the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) are rules and conditions that create corporate states that take over resources from people for meeting essential needs and put them in the hands of private corporations. This results in these corporations making profits through the privatization of essential services. Having created scarcity and pollution through the promotion of non-sustainable water use, the World Bank is now transforming the scarcity it has created into a market opportunity for water corporations. The World Bank estimates the potential water market at $800 billion. Big corporations such as bottled water companies and soft drink makers have scorched certain areas of water for their own interests and disregarded the concerns of the citizens who depend on their water supplies for their livelihood. Water has become big business for global corporations that see limitless markets in the growing scarcity and growing demand for water. Bottled water for instance is a multi billion dollar per year industry. The more scarce public drinking water is the more profitable their business is. One example of water exploitation by the rich is in Dubai, where the Tiger Woods Golf Course uses 4 million gallons of water every day to maintain its lavish appearance, while many die each day to to lack of water in parts of the world not far away.

A film that I highly recommend is “Flow. For Love of Water”. It will open your eyes to the worldwide water issue if they have not already been opened. It describes how human intervention and corporate greed have made water scarce in pockets around the globe. Some corporations have put their own interests ahead of water conservation and environmental practices.

The bottled water industry is a very profitable industry for a few large corporations. In the US alone Americans purchased 31 billion liters of bottled water, which amounted to 10 billion dollars. Bottled water in the United States is less regulated than tap water. There are some major corporations that have gone into areas to take all the water they can with no regards to the consequences. One example of this is Nestle. Nestle owns over 70 water brands around the world. In Mecosta, Michigan, Nestlé pumps an average of 218 gallons per minute out of Michigan waters after winning a court battle. This is even with much public outrage and parts of the water supply drying up in this area. Nestle has water pumping facilities in other states as well.

In India, tens of thousands of people across the county are challenging Coca-Cola for its abuse of their water resources. Coca-Cola bottling plants have greatly affected both the quantity and quality of groundwater resources as a result of its operations, making access to water by communities even more prohibitive. Coca-Cola's water use ratio in India is 4 to 1. That means that three quarters of the freshwater it extracts is turned into wastewater. The company has indiscriminately discharged its wastewater into the surrounding fields, drastically polluting the scarce remaining groundwater as well as the soil. This is in a county where thousands lack access to clean water. In 2004, for instance the Coca Cola Company used 283 billion liters of water around the globe.

Suez is the world’s second largest water company with energy, water and wastewater operations in 130 countries. Suez has been backed by the World Bank and has won large water privatization contracts in the Philippines, Argentina, Puerto Rico, Bolivia, Indonesia and other third world countries. Suez bribed the governments of these countries with promises that were often never kept, leaving countries deeper in debt and leaving millions of people without access to safe and affordable water. Suez owes compensation to the millions of citizens around the world whose lives have been made more difficult due to water-borne diseases, cut-offs, lack of access to potable water and connection fees and water rates that are unaffordable to many people in these areas. There are certainly other corporations in the mix in regards to controlling a great deal of the world’s water supply. Many of these companies main motive is not “green”. In fact their main motive is “greed”.

Many dams are have been built around the world greatly affecting the flow of water. In poorer countries these projects are often funded by the World Bank. Dams are often built to produce hydro power, but dams are also built to provide irrigation, flood control, water supply and navigation improvement. Often when a dam is constructed water flow is cut off in other areas, particularily poorer areas where people have less power to fight against these massive projects. Dams do serve a purpose and sometimes are beneficial, but the negative issues due to dams cannot be ignored. In addition to causing water shortages in certain spots, storing water above ground risks flooding, contamination, evaporation, and damage to ecosystems. It has been stated that the world’s 45,000 large dams have done a lot of harm worldwide. The World Commission on Dams, a World Bank-sponsored initiative backed by both critics and dam supporters estimated that 40 to 80 million people have been displaced by dams. It is common that a river crosses through two different nations. The nation residing upstream, if it chooses to dam the river, can degrade the value and quality of the water where it flows through the other nation. This can lead to disputes and conflicts.

Corruption and mishandling of water resources is obvious every where in all water related activities. It is rampant in drilling wells, in constructing water treatment plants and water dams. Privatization of water has become the major means of manipulating the poor. These companies that control the flow of water exploit the poor people and their essential resources. Their interests lie only in profit making and not the poor themselves. These multinational companies often ignore the law. Corruption has made water costly all over the world and billions of lives are in danger. Water shortage is a major cause of food shortages! One thing that happens when a resource gets scarce is that the people with money get access to it first. In regards to water this is happening to a large extent but will get worse unless something is done. Another result of scarce water is that people and even countries may go to war over water supplies. We are all aware by now that a well known resource “oil” has caused wars. With water as well, many oceans, rivers and lakes cross international boundries and pollution and toxins may flow from one country to the next by way of our water ways.

Global Warming and our Oceans:
Our oceans are increasing becoming more polluted with trash all the time. It seems that corporations and some people seem to regard our oceans as dumping grounds for waste without stopping to think of the ramifications that this has. Also, if we throw pollutants into our lakes, rivers and oceans and even the soil and ground, they can eventually end up in our oceans. Polluted oceans are a major concern since they are connected to our rivers and lakes; therefore fish and animal life become affected and even poisoned. When fish and animals get poisoned it ends up in our bodies when we eat the affected animals. There are many toxins that end up causing diseases in humans, including cancer, caused from eating contaminated wildlife. One example of a toxin is mercury. Mercury, which has been put in our water systems, become consumed by fish. When we eat fish at times we get traces of mercury along with our food. Once in the human body, mercury acts as a neurotoxin, interfering with the brain and nervous system. Exposure to mercury can be particularly hazardous for pregnant women and small children. Human activities are putting oceans under increasing pressure. Resulting changes in the marine environment are occurring at a faster pace than anticipated, affecting especially the most vulnerable marine ecosystems such as coral reefs. There are many documented cases of what is happening to our ocean waters. One example is in a remote patch of the Pacific Ocean, 1,000 miles northeast of Hawaii, small pieces of plastic and other debris are found in the Pacific garbage patch, an area of widely distributed trash that doubles in size every decade and is now believed to be roughly twice the size of Texas. Scientists say the garbage patch is just one of five that may be caught in giant circles scattered around the world’s oceans. We see endless amounts of trash wash up on our shores, not to mention the thousands of toxic chemicals that we often can’t see. Carbon-dioxide emissions are also turning ocean waters into acid at an unprecedented rate. About a quarter of the carbon dioxide pumped into the atmosphere by factories, power stations and cars now ends up being absorbed by the oceans. That represents more than six million tonnes of carbon a day. This carbon dioxide dissolves and is turned into carbonic acid, causing the oceans to become more acidic. Much of the precipitation that falls over the planet is formed from the oceans. Since over 95 percent of the world’s water is ocean water, polluting our oceans can have devastating effects on our eco system.

Climate changes, including rising temperatures and sea levels, precipitation change, droughts and floods wreak havoc on eco systems. Arctic ice is melting rapidly. Arctic ice also plays a crucial role in stabilizing global climate and weather patterns. Weather patterns across the globe will become more unstable and numbers of devastating storms will increase. Changes in the ocean currents originating from the arctic move warmer and cooler water around to new places, greatly affecting the climate. With the climate affected there are more droughts in places and more floods in other places, which affects our water supply. More carbon dioxide can dissolve in cold water than warm, amking the Arctic more acidic than oceans in tropical areas. A scientist with of France's Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, suggests suggests that 10% of the Arctic Ocean will be corrosively acidic by 2018; 50% by 2050; and 100% ocean by 2100. Over the whole planet, there will be a threefold increase in the average acidity of the oceans, which is unprecedented during the past 20 million years. That level of acidification will cause tremendous damage to the ecosystem and the food chain, particularly in the Arctic.
Global warming accelerates the normal cycle of rainfall and evaporation, destroying balance of water supply and demand and even possibly expanding worldwide gap in water availability. Global warming is expected to account for about twenty percent of the global increase in water scarcity in the twenty first century. It is predicted that global warming will alter precipitation patterns around the world, melt mountain glaciers, and worsen the extremes of droughts and floods. Water shortages will increase food shortages around the globe!

What can we do?
Most of us in the North America and the developed world need to be aware of the issue regarding dwindling water supplies and water pollution. Each one of us should conserve water when possible and not needlessly waste it. As well we all need to be aware of the chemicals we pour down the drain. There are things we can do at home to cut down on water waste. While you may think that what you do may not make a huge difference, collectively it will. Don’t let water needlessly run while you are brushing your teeth or doing your dishes. Shorten your daily shower by a minute or two and you'll save up over one hundred gallons per month. Run your clothes washer and dishwasher only when they are full, therefore saving up to 1,000 gallons of water a month. If you must water your lawn and garden do it in the morning or evening when temperatures are cooler to minimize evaporation. In North America and the western world many of us still have the luxury to reduce water consumption. In many parts of the world they do not! There are many other water saving tips that can be found at various websites that we should all practice when possible.

One thing that has been done to a very small extent is desalination. Desalination involves reducing its mineral content by taking salt out of seawater and brackish water and producing water of freshwater quality. It is used mainly by cities and industry. However, desalination can be costly and that energy is produced primarily with fossil fuels, which pollute the air, and each method of disposing of the by-products of desalination—for example in the ocean or in deep wells—has an impact on the environment. Desalination is not necessarily the answer to our water crisis but it is something that may need to be done in one way or another, at least to some extent, if we continue depleting our supply of fresh water.

We as citizens need to make corporations and individuals that pollute or water supply more accountable. We also need to make corporations that exploit our water supply in the name of profit and greed more accountable. One example is to boycott products that are manufactured by companies that do not respect our environment including our water. Another example is to make people aware of actions that corporations take to pollute and delete our water sources. Avenues like twitter and facebook allow the average citizen to voice their concerns. We as citizens that are concerned about our environment cannot be totally muzzled anymore as there are ways to voice your concern. (We welcome anyone to post your articles on our website relating to this. You may have a story about water issues and concerns in your area http://www.nexplanrecycling.com/submitted-articles.html) We need our governments to have stricter laws concerning companies and people dumping toxins in our oceans, river and lakes as well as the soil which eventually seeps into our water.

Water is something every living person requires whether you are young or old, rich or poor. Unless population growth can be slowed quickly or our way of managing this resource is drastically changed, it is feared that there may not be a practical non-violent or humane solution to the emerging world water shortage. It is going to take a unified effort by everyone and every nation to adress this issue. Water is not limited to a particular nation’s borders in many cases. Clean water should not be a privledge, it should be a right, however this precious resource should never ever be taken for granted. We as citizens of this planet must take care of this resource. Our future and our children’s future depend on it.

Pollution... How it Effects Us.

Air Pollution: Air is the ocean we breathe. Air supplies us with oxygen which is essential for our bodies to live. Air is 99.9% nitrogen, oxygen, water vapor and inert gases. Human activities can release substances into the air, some of which can cause problems for humans, plants, and animals. Air quality is important simply because we can’t avoid breathing in the air around us. The average adult breathes in about 20 cubic meters, or 20,000 liters of air a day. Air pollutants can cause a variety of health problems - including breathing problems; asthma; reduced lung function; lung damage; bronchitis; cancer; and brain and nervous system damage. Air pollution can also irritate the eyes, nose and throat, and reduce resistance to colds and other illnesses. Air pollution can be especially harmful to the very young, the very old, and those with certain preexisting medical conditions. Small portions of air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions comes from natural sources, such as forest fires, bogs and volcanic activity. Human activities, such as burning fossil fuels, using chemicals and industrial processes are the source of most air pollution. Air pollution and greenhouse gases are the cause of smog, climate change and land and water contamination when pollutants fall in rain or snow. Air pollution is the human introduction into the atmosphere of chemicals, particulate matter, or biological materials that cause harm or discomfort to humans or other living organisms, or damages the natural environment. Air pollutants fall into four main categories: criteria air contaminants, persistent organic pollutants, heavy metals and toxics. Individual pollutants differ from one another in their chemical composition, reactions with other chemicals, sources, persistence, ability to travel through the atmosphere, and impacts. Air pollution is often identified with major stationary sources, but the greatest source of emissions is mobile sources, mainly automobiles. Gases such as carbon dioxide, which contribute to global warming, have recently gained recognition as pollutants by climate scientists, while they also recognize that carbon dioxide is essential for plant life through photosynthesis. There are several main types of pollution and well-known effects of pollution which are commonly discussed. These include smog, acid rain, the greenhouse effect, and "holes" in the ozone layer. Each of these problems has serious implications for our health and well-being as well as for the whole environment. The exhaust from burning fuels in automobiles, homes, and industries is a major source of pollution in the air. Some authorities believe that even the burning of wood and charcoal in fireplaces and barbeques can release significant quantities of soot into the air. Another type of pollution is the release of noxious gases, such as sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, and chemical vapors. These can take part in further chemical reactions once they are in the atmosphere, forming smog and acid rain. The Greenhouse Effect, also referred to as global warming, is generally believed to come from the build up of carbon dioxide gas in the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide is produced when fuels are burned. Plants convert carbon dioxide back to oxygen, but the release of carbon dioxide from human activities is higher than the world's plants can process. The situation is made worse since many of the earth's forests are being removed, and plant life is being damaged by acid rain. Thus, the amount of carbon dioxide in the air is continuing to increase. This buildup acts like a blanket and traps heat close to the surface of our earth. Changes of even a few degrees will affect us all through changes in the climate. Refining oil is a dirty procedure that contributes to pollution and global warming. Refineries that keep cars and trucks running also contribute to global warming. Fuel must be burned to make gasoline from oil, generating carbon-dioxide pollution. Oil refineries pollute our air, water, and land. Oil refineries are one of the largest sources of air pollution in the North America. Refineries are the single largest stationary source of various organic chemical compounds, the primary source of urban smog. Refineries are also one of the largest industrial source of toxic emissions and the single largest industrial source of benzene emissions. Our air is polluted by up to one hundred pollutants emitted from the stacks and leaking equipment at refineries. Chemicals emitted from oil refineries include metals like lead, and small dust particles called PM10, which get deep into our lungs and harm our ability to breathe. Finally, refineries emit many gases like sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxide (NO2), carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, methane, dioxins, hydrogen fluoride, chlorine, benzene and others. Many of the gases emitted by refineries are harmful to humans, and can cause permanent damage and even death. They can cause respiratory problems such as asthma, coughing, chest pain, choking, and bronchitis. Oil refinery emissions also can lead to skin irritations, nausea, eye problems, headaches, birth defects, leukemia, and cancers Air pollution also can exist inside homes and other buildings. It can, and every year, the health of many people is affected by chemical substances present in the air within buildings. There are many sources of indoor air pollution. Tobacco smoke, cooking and heating appliances, and vapors from building materials, paints, furniture, etc. cause pollution inside buildings. Radon is a natural radioactive gas released from the earth, and it can be found concentrated in basements Carbon monoxide (CO) is a gas that forms whenever you burn fuel like propane, natural gas, gasoline, oil, coal and wood. Because it is colourless, odourless and tasteless, it is hard to detect without a carbon monoxide detector. Carbon monoxide can cause health problems before and even death. Fuel-burning appliances such as furnaces, fireplaces, gas stoves and water heaters (especially those that are not properly vented or maintained) or when chimneys are blocked or dirty; Idling vehicles in garages that are attached to homes or buildings; Barbecues, grills, space heaters and other non-vented fuel-burning appliances that are designed for outdoor use; and tobacco smoke. The growing use of synthetic materials, modern office equipment (photocopiers, laser printers, and computers), cleaning products, and outdoor air pollution also contribute to indoor air contamination The most harmful and widespread contaminant of indoor air is tobacco smoke. Mould and dampness, improperly maintained combustion appliances, off-gassing from domestic chemicals and dust mites and their byproducts in the indoor environment can also cause a number of health problems. Mould growing in your home can release mould spores, toxins from mould and moldy odours. Harmful chemicals can be released from synthetic fabrics, furnishings and household products. Other sources of indoor air pollutants are burning candles, or improperly maintained or vented combustion devices, such as gas or propane cooking stoves, furnaces, water heaters, wood stoves and fireplaces.Smoking tobacco is the main source of indoor air pollution in the developed world. Tobacco smoke contains about 4,000 chemicals, including 50 that are known to cause cancer Air pollution has resulted in the increase of ailments related to respiratory infections such as bronchitis, lung diseases, acute respiratory distress syndrome and respiratory allergies, including attacks of severe asthma. Increased air pollution has also caused cases of middle ear infections which lead to various degrees of hearing impairment. Secondhand smoke, also known as environmental tobacco smoke, is the single largest contributor to indoor air pollution when a smoker is present. . Second-hand smoke can drift under doors, through open windows, vents and even electrical outlets. Drifting tobacco smoke is a problem for many people who live in multi-unit buildings as renters or as owners Studies of secondhand smoke indicate that air pollution in general can affect the heart and circulatory system. Fortunately in many countries laws are becoming much stricter regarding smoking in public places. For example in some provinces in Canada, smoking is not permitted in restaurants, shopping malls, public buildings and even licensed bars. From growing tobacco plants to disposal of butts and packaging, the life cycle of a cigarette creates a lot of pollution. Tobacco causes environmental damage where it is used as well as where it is produced Tobacco cultivation involves a great deal of pesticides, which are used in the early stages of tobacco growth. Pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers poison farm workers, seep into the soil and pollute waterways and ecological systems, and poison livestock and food crops In many countries in the world, steps are being taken to stop the damage to our environment from air pollution. Scientific groups study the damaging effects on plant, animal and human life. Legislative bodies write laws to control emissions. Educators in schools and universities are teaching students about the effects of air pollution. Many countries have set legislations on pollution emissions for transportation vehicles and industry. This is usually done to through a variety of coordinating agencies which monitor the air and the environment. In addition, it is possible to prevent many types of air pollution that are not regulated through personal, careful attention to our interactions with the environment. Only through the efforts of scientists, business leaders, legislators, and individuals can we reduce the amount of air pollution on the planet. This challenge must be met by all of us in order to assure that a healthy environment will exist for ourselves and our children.