Article by Renesha Poole | 897 words
Underneath the accessibility granted by the latest sleek and stylish device lies a growing and detrimental health issue: industrial pollution. Technology permeates nearly every aspect of our daily lives in one way or another. A single glance around you will reveal technological devices both blatantly and inconspicuously in sight: cell phones, outdoor lampposts, cars and refrigerators are just a few examples. But as we continue reaping the seemingly endless benefits of technology, its ugly underbelly slowly becomes more apparent.
The Industrial Revolution: Economic Growth at the Cost of Environmental Decay
The Industrial Revolution marked the beginning of the shift from using hand tools in rural settings to using machines for mass production in factories. The use of pollutants such as coal and iron ore increased dramatically as factories needed more and more fuel to operate. And so, industrial pollution had begun.
Soon, the Industrial Revolution spread from its birthplace in Britain to the United States, France, Belgium and other developing countries seeking to achieve the same economic growth Britain had attained. They also managed to achieve the same outpouring of industrial pollution. Unfortunately, the implementation of new technology in this capacity and its ruinous aftermath continues to be just as profound today as it was over 150 years ago, threatening the health of millions of people.
Environmentalism’s Growing Presence
As the Industrial Revolution brought economic prosperity throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, the toll that burgeoning factories took on the environment and on people’s health was first addressed some twenty-odd-years after the revolution begun. The British Alkali Act of 1863, legislation that regulated air pollution, marked the beginning of environmentalism in the years succeeding industrialization.
Environmentalism continues today as solutions are needed for new issues that arise and for older issues that continue to wreak havoc on the environment. Unfortunately, industrial pollution is difficult to control due to the number of items produced each today for an ever-growing world population.
Conserve Energy Future, a website dedicated to addressing and resolving environmental issues, cites the lack of pollution policies, the use of outdated technology and improper disposal of waste as reasons for the continual plague of industrial pollution. So, industrial pollution harms the environment in nearly every way possible. Air, water and soil are just a few elements of the environment that are adversely affected.
Sustainable Baby Steps, a website dedicated to green, simple and healthy living, explains that harmful gases such as oxides of carbon, sulfur and nitrogen released by vehicles and the burning of fuel pollutes the air. Polluted water results from incidences such as the discharge of raw sewage into bodies of water or industrial waste spills contaminating groundwater. Improperly disposing waste or exposing land to toxins like oil contributes to soil pollution. It’s clear that industrial pollution harms the environment in countless ways, but how is that relevant to you personally?
What Industrial Pollution Means for Your Health
When you hurt the environment, you hurt the health of the people dwelling in it (not to mention the health of the plants and animals).
The Natural Resources Defense Council, a grassroots environmental group, cites air pollution as a major contributor to the increase of asthma in already healthy people and the increase of asthma attacks among both children and adults who already have the disease. Particulate matter, ground level ozone, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide are pollutants emitted by factories, vehicles, coal-fired power plants and oil refineries that trigger and exacerbate asthma. The Environmental Protection Agency reports that, from 1980 to 1994, asthma rates rose right alongside air pollution rates. Asthma increased by 75 percent among adults and 150 percent among children.
Plus, polluted air can lead to allergies, respiratory infections and lung disease. China, a country that is practically a cautionary tale of over-industrialization, had an estimated 1.2 million premature deaths in 2010 that could be linked to air pollution.
The toxins present in contaminated water cause harm to aquatic animals—and the people who consume them. Although the severity of the effects can vary, water pollution can cause birth defects, immune suppression, reproductive failure and acute poisoning. According to the Water Pollution Guide, infectious diseases such as typhoid fever and cholera are the leading causes of death in infants in developing countries where sewage flows from factories without strict regulations.
Common soil pollutants such as lead, mercury, arsenic and other metals are associated with headaches, nausea, fatigue and skin rash as well as more serious health conditions like cancer, particularly leukemia. It can also damage a person’s nervous system, kidneys and liver.
The Future Environment of Industrial Pollution
It’s undeniable that technology and industrialization have contributed to immense progress by improving education services, advancing scientific discoveries and streamlining the dissemination of information. These have, in turn, allowed us to conquer illnesses we never could before.
However, the threats that industrial pollution poses on the welfare of people needs to be addressed so solutions can be sought. The fact of the matter is, the factory along the riverbank is causing extensive environmental damage as it spouts waste that leaks into the river, taints the soil that it’s built upon and clouds the surrounding air. As a result, whole ecosystems are dying. If the environment cannot flourish under these conditions, what does this mean for your livelihood? If we allow industrial production to operate without regulations, we’re allowing our technological advances and industrial pollution to dig our own graves.
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