Examples of contaminants

We call pollutants all those substances, objects and foreign agents to a medium that influence the environment itself causing adverse effects. That is, we are talking about substances of various origins that, after their intrusion into a medium, generate a harmful effect on the environment, damaging in some way the balance of the ecosystem, harming animals, plants, soil, waters and being human, that is, causing alterations to the natural and normal state of the environment.

Pollutants may well be natural or created by human activities, and may have various origins, such as chemical, biological, etc. Affecting the environment in different ways.

We can classify various types of pollutants according to various criteria, such as, for example, according to whether they are biological or inorganic, according to the medium to which they contaminate, according to the origin that produces the pollutant, according to its state (solid, liquid, gaseous), etc.

Types of pollutants according to their origin:

Biological Contaminants

They are all those that are originated or produced by a living organism, but whose presence in some environment contaminates it, degrading the quality of its components such as water, air or soil, affecting the ecosystem. Examples are fungi, viruses and bacteria that usually contaminate waters or certain foods, as well as organic waste such as feces and other organic waste dumped into the waters of seas, rivers and lakes, as well as biological waste that is dumped into a environment or habitat polluting it. Many of these biological pollutants are a consequence of human activities, for example organic waste (feces and waste), which is dumped into the seas and rivers, polluting them, or the biological pollution produced by livestock activities or waste from slaughterhouses and fishmongers, among other activities. Causing, for example, ingesting water contaminated with bacteria or fungi, causing diseases or the death of animals, plants or the human being himself.

Chemical Contaminants

We speak of chemical pollutants when referring to inorganic and inert matter, that is, we speak of inorganic substances that originate as part of human activity, mainly industrial chemical waste, these affect the environment in a harmful way, seriously damaging it since they alter the chemical conformation. medium. To a large extent, they originate from oil, derivatives and other hydrocarbons, belonging to industrial waste and processed products from these sources, and can be solid such as plastics among others, liquids such as fuels and solvents, as well as gaseous such as the various gases produced. by the industry and the exhaust gases of motor vehicles among others. These are usually very harmful to the health of living beings, affecting plants, animals and human beings in their health can even cause death. They affect both land, water and air (air) media.

Physical Contaminants

We speak of physical pollutants when dealing with all those physical factors that affect the environment, altering the qualities and quality of the components of the environment itself, affecting the organisms that make up the ecosystem. This is the case of natural and artificial radiation such as light, heat or noise, among others.

36 examples of contaminants:

  1. Plastics. One of the main environmental pollutants that mainly affects the soil are the various plastics (Pet, PVC, etc.), which due to their chemical composition are difficult to degrade naturally, and which are usually disposed of as garbage indiscriminately in garbage dumps, streets, etc. forests and even in the sea and beaches, polluting the soil and waters permanently for a long time. In addition to this, in its manufacture, hundreds of air pollutants are usually released into the atmosphere, as well as in the burning of these materials, which is usually done irresponsibly by people who try to “eliminate” the garbage by burning it.
  2. Pet. The pet used in soda bottles and various products has become a very harmful environmental pollutant, precisely because of the ability to resist degradation that this material possesses, damaging the environment (soil), in the form of garbage, being that sometimes It is consumed by animals that look for food in the garbage, affecting their health.
  3. Smog. it is the smoke produced by factories and automobile exhausts.
  4. Noise. The deafening noise heard in cities, produced by machines, automobiles, and various devices such as radios, horns and car speakers, is an environmental pollutant that damages both people and animals in their hearing health and mental state.
  5. Glasses and Glass Bottles. These products do not degrade naturally so their presence in an environment affects organisms and the environment itself (mainly the soil), affecting animals who are usually injured by these when stepping on them or ingesting them together with food (such as animals looking for food in the garbage).
  6. Airborne dust. Dust is various particles that are dispersed in the air that, although they can be suspended naturally (dust that is raised by the wind and even sand storms), has been increasing due to deforestation caused by man, as well as by the various substances (dust and smoke), which are released from mainly industrial human activities such as mining, among others.
  7. Smoke in the air. Smoke used to be a “natural” polluting substance from fires, volcanic eruptions, as well as human activity (cooking with fuels or burning forests for planting), however, since the industrial era began these substances have increased dramatically in the atmosphere affecting the health of people, plants and animals, causing disease and even death as a result of the smog produced by excessive industrial activities. In addition, the smoke from automotive exhausts has caused these suspended particles to increase dramatically and also cause pollution of the water suspended in the atmosphere (clouds), causing acid rains that are harmful to the soil, aquifers and in general the living beings that could drink it or be exposed to it.
  8. Toxic gases in the air. In addition to the aforementioned Smog, there are other toxic gases that are usually released by industrial activities, in particular some harmful gases such as radioactive gases released by nuclear explosions and the activity of the nuclear industry, highly poisonous gases that affect all forms of life. .
  9. Fecal waste. The feces contained in wastewater are a very dangerous biological pollutant for the environment, since they directly affect aquifers, waterways, lakes and seas where they are usually discharged, as well as the soil, contaminating it and causing disease and death among animals. , plants and people who consume water or plants that are usually irrigated with these wastewater (such as vegetables), affecting health and life due to its high content of harmful bacteria and viruses and due to the loss of oxygen of aquatic environments.
  10. Organic waste in water. These substances are usually waste from living beings that accumulate in excess, depleting the oxygen present in the water, killing the organisms in the water (fish and other animals). Much of this waste is usually discharged through sewage into tributaries and seas.
  11. Hydrocarbons. Hydrocarbons (liquid, gaseous and solid), are perhaps the pollutants that have damaged the environment the most in recent decades, mainly because they are perhaps the basis of our current civilization and we depend a lot on them using them and disposing of them indiscriminately. Accidents such as oil spills or other fuels, their burning or their release in the form of gas, as well as hydrocarbon derivatives such as oil in the form of garbage (plastics and others), damage the structure of the soil, affect life of plants and animals, as well as they intervene in the pH of the soil reducing its fertility, and alter the natural composition of the waters. Among these we mainly count the damages caused by spills of oil, gasoline and other fuels, as well as various plastics such as Pet, PVC, Polyethylene,
  12. Pesticides. These chemical substances harm not only insects, arachnids and various arthropods that infest as pests, but their chemical composition affects plants, animals, air, water and soil, damaging the health of those who consume food or water contaminated with they.
  13. Soaps and detergents. These are chemical substances that are usually discharged into wastewater and that affect by polluting the water and the environment, harming living beings that come into contact with them (for example, fish and other animals that ingest it).
  14. Acids. These are discarded by various industries and dumped in landfills, causing damage mainly to the soil or water and therefore harming plants and animals. The main acids that usually pollute the environment are sulfuric, phosphoric, acetic, carbonic, and nitric acids, among others.
  15. Mining waste. Mining is and has been one of the human activities that most damage the environment, both because when extracting minerals, some ecosystems are frequently destroyed, as well as because various chemicals are used in extraction processes, as well as dumping waste. of this industry in poorly prepared landfills or directly in nature.
  16. Heavy metals. Among the most dangerous pollutants for living beings are heavy metals, which are usually dumped in the environment due to the activities of the mining industry and others, as well as because they are present in some pesticides and even aerosols, and the metals contained in cells and batteries that, when thrown into landfills or released into the environment, produce irreparable damage to it.
  17. Radioactive waste. One of the main environmental pollutants due to their danger, are radioactive waste, these are the product of the industrial energy activity of nuclear plants or nuclear waste released by nuclear weapons, they affect practically all media such as water, soil and the air, harming every living creature. They are usually released into the atmosphere (in the form of radioactive gases), into the water or into the soil when they are buried “to get rid of them”, penetrating deeper layers of the soil and into aquifers. These pollutants can remain damaging the system for thousands or even millions of years. The environmental damage caused by radioactive waste includes the incidence of genetic malformations in plants and animals,

More examples of contaminants:

  • Lead
  • Sulfur dioxide
  • Carbon dioxide
  • Carbon monoxide
  • Nitrogen monoxide
  • Various radioactive isotopes
  • Pathogenic bacteria
  • Pathogenic viruses
  • Herbicides
  • Pesticides
  • Household garbage
  • Industrial waste
  • Organic waste from slaughterhouses and butchers
  • Smoke from car exhausts
  • The smoke from the chimneys
  • Heavy metals
  • Discarded batteries
  • Cadmium in batteries
  • Excessive thermal rise


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