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What is Industrial Pollution?

Mary McMahon
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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Industrial pollution is pollution which can be directly linked with industry, in contrast to other pollution sources. This form of pollution is one of the leading causes of pollution worldwide; in the United States, for example, the Environmental Protective Agency estimates that up to 50% of the nation's pollution is caused by industry. Because of its size and scope, industrial pollution is a serious problem for the entire planet, especially in nations which are rapidly industrializing, like China.

This form of pollution dates back to antiquity, but widespread industrial pollution accelerated rapidly in the 1800s, with the start of the Industrial Revolution. The Industrial Revolution mechanized means of production, allowing for a much greater volume of production, and generating a corresponding increase in pollution. The problem was compounded by the use of fuels like coal, which is notoriously unclean, and a poor understanding of the causes and consequences of pollution.

There are a number of forms of industrial pollution. One of the most common is water pollution, caused by dumping of industrial waste into waterways, or improper containment of waste, which causes leakage into groundwater and waterways. Industrial pollution can also impact air quality, and it can enter the soil, causing widespread environmental problems.

Because of the nature of the global environment, industrial pollution is never limited to industrial nations. Samples of ice cores from Antarctica and the Arctic both show high levels of industrial pollutants, illustrating the immense distances which pollutants can travel, and traces of industrial pollutants have been identified in isolated human, animal, and plant populations as well.

Industrial pollution hurts the environment in a range of ways, and it has a negative impact on human lives and health. Pollutants can kill animals and plants, imbalance ecosystems, degrade air quality radically, damage buildings, and generally degrade quality of life. Factory workers in areas with uncontrolled industrial pollution are especially vulnerable.

A growing awareness of factory pollution and its consequences has led to tighter restrictions on pollution all over the world, with nations recognizing that they have an obligation to protect themselves and their neighbors from pollution. However, industrial pollution also highlights a growing issue: the desire of developing nations to achieve first world standards of living and production. As these countries industrialize, they add to the global burden of industrial pollution, triggering serious discussions and arguments about environmental responsibility and a desire to reach a global agreement on pollution issues.

All Things Nature is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a All Things Nature researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By Alchemy — On Jun 10, 2010

@ Fiorite - Clean Coal tech is still in the research and development stage. It is still unknown if the sequestering of the exhaust from coal is safe, or if underground reservoirs will even hold the carbon dioxide gases that are pumped down there. Questions like what happens when an earthquake strikes still need to be answered. If large amounts of carbon dioxide leach out of the ground it can kill everything around the leak. As far as the fly ash is concerned, I am not sure what would be done with the waste. I would assume some effort to bury it deep below the earth's crust would be one of the best ideas. Burning coal would only be clean if it did not contaminate the water table, and was buried deep enough so it did not come into contact with living organisms. We certainly can't have disasters like the one in Tennessee a few years ago where fly ash breached the pond walls and flooded residential areas.

By Fiorite — On Jun 10, 2010

Is the idea behind "clean coal" technology only to trap the carbon dioxide from the exhaust, or does clean coal tech involve trapping all exhaust and recycling anything that can be re-used? Also, what would clean coal plants do with all the left over fly ash? I know that the fly ash is often kept in open fly ash ponds. That toxic soup can't be healthy for residents or the environment if all of the toxic chemicals in the fly ash ponds are allowed to leach into the ground.

By PelesTears — On Jun 10, 2010

The pollution from coal plants has got to be the worst of the industrial pollution out there. The particles released into the environment from burning coal are a toxic stew that has caused some serious environmental, health, and economic problems across the nation. The Oak Ridge National Laboratory studies the effects of burning coal and some of the results of these studies are no less than shocking. An ORNL report titled "Coal Combustion: Nuclear resource or danger" concluded that since the country has been burning coal, more than 1000 tons of fissionable Uranium-235, the same fuel used for nuclear reactors, has been introduced into the environment in the fly ash. If all of the fly ash were to be filtered by properly functioning precipitators then 99% of all fly ash would be filtered and stored in fly ash ponds. This still indicates that roughly ten tons of fissionable uranium has been vaporized into the atmosphere over the United States during the past 75 years. This is only the pollution from the burning of coal in the United States. Imagine what is released in places like China and India where environmental regulations are not nearly as stringent. If we could figure out a way to mine Uranium from coal ash then we could theoretically fuel our country's nuclear power plants for another 50 years (basically this was the premise of the study).

By mendocino — On Nov 17, 2008

Two large cities in United States with best air quality are Honolulu and Tucson.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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