Pollutants Are: Definition and Types

Written by Nandy

Pollutants are chemicals or materials that can damage the environment. Pollutants are not only harmful to one type of organism, but also have a negative impact on all types of organisms and ecosystems. In this article, we will take a closer look at what pollutants are, why they are so important to understand, and the different types of pollutants that exist on earth.

The words pollutant, pollution and pollutant are often used to describe the same thing. However, these three are different terms. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica , pollution is the addition of any hazardous substance or materials to the environment. This addition has a negative impact on the environment in life.

Substances and hazardous materials that cause pollution are called pollutants or pollutants. Therefore, polluters and pollutants are the same thing, while pollution is the entry of pollutants into the environment. In order to understand more clearly about pollutants, see a further explanation of pollutants in this one article.

Definition of Pollutants

Source: Pexels.com

Pollutants are substances that can cause environmental pollution. A substance is called a pollutant if it has excessive levels and disturbs the surrounding environment. These substances will then cause harm to living things, one of which is through air pollution.

In a book entitled The Miracle of Hijab , Anton explains that the air in an area will be said to be polluted if it has foreign substances in excess of reasonable limits. For example, if under normal circumstances, carbon dioxide has benefits for plants, but if it is excessive, it will make the air unhealthy to breathe.

Another example is vehicle exhaust, cigarette smoke, factory smoke or forest fires and others that contribute to pollution in human life every day. There are also other examples of pollutants that are usually encountered, namely CO2, NO2, SO2 and others.

To be able to minimize the existence of pollutants, humans must make further prevention and handling efforts. One way is to do reforestation or replanting of plants.

This reforestation step is highly recommended, because plants are able to absorb pollutants, especially carbon dioxide. If the plants on earth are reduced, then the volume of carbon dioxide in the free air will become uncontrollable. This of course can be dangerous for the safety of mankind.

Vegetation programs or the procurement of green open spaces also need to be further encouraged in every corner of cities in Indonesia. Various studies have even concluded that vegetation can absorb carbon dioxide and produce oxygen more optimally.

In areas with vegetation, the air temperature can be cooler and can even be around 25.50 to 30.00 C. Meanwhile, in areas without vegetation, the air temperature tends to be hotter ranging from 27.70 to 33.10 C. This difference certainly will affect the survival of humans and living things.

Therefore, regional vegetation needs to be expanded by relying on vacant land in urban areas. Developments that are not needed are better postponed first. Prioritize vegetation to prevent environmental pollution from getting worse every day.

Types of Pollutants

Source: Pexels.com

Pollutants are substances or materials added to the environment that are undesirable or unacceptable to the environment, which can cause damage or disturbance to the environment. Pollutants can consist of chemicals, particles, or other materials that can damage the quality of air, water, or soil.

There are several types of pollutants that can affect environmental quality, including:

1. Air Pollutants

Air pollutants are pollutants contained in the air such as smoke, dust, gases and other particles that can cause air pollution. Air pollutants can be generated from human activities such as factories, motorized vehicles, and forest fires, as well as natural activities such as volcanic eruptions and forest fires.

Air pollution can occur due to a mixture of pollutants caused by human actions and has an impact on natural ecosystems. Air pollution is a process of decreasing air quality due to the entry of several hazardous elements such as Carbon Monoxide or CO2, Nitrogen Dioxide or NO2, Sulfur Dioxide or SO2 and other elements.

Air pollution caused by pollutants can also be caused by two factors, including nature and humans. Natural factors that cause air pollution are caused by activities in nature, such as volcanoes that produce volcanic gas and ash.

In addition, forest fires can also be one of the natural factors that can cause pollutants in the form of dust, smoke and gas which in turn pollute the air.

There are also human factors that cause air pollutants, namely due to the activity of burning waste, the industrial sector and motorized vehicles. There are also other human activities that will generate steam, dust, grit, CO2 and NO2.

There are several types of air pollutants that fill the earth’s atmosphere and need to be watched out for, including the following:

Powered By

Loaded: 0.16%

a. Particulate Matter (PM)

Cars and factories that burn fuel can emit waste that pollutes the air. This is especially the case during forest fires that occur during the dry season. The air around us will be filled with harmful particles (PM) and liquids that fill our atmosphere. These particles consist of components such as nitrates, sulfates, dust, allergens, and pollen.

These particles are so small that they easily enter the nose and lungs. Once inhaled, these particles can cause problems in the lungs and heart. The short-term effects will cause sore throat, eye irritation, and asthma. Meanwhile, the long-term effects can cause problems such as decreased lung function and cardiovascular problems.

b. Sulfur Dioxide (SO2)

Burning fossil fuels can emit harmful gases such as sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere. This gas can also occur due to volcanic eruptions that often occur in Indonesia. Sulfur dioxide is a colorless and odorless substance, so it is difficult to see with the naked eye.

Sulfur dioxide contributes to environmental pollution by emitting particles into the air. If this substance is smelled, it can cause irritation to the nose, throat, lungs, cardiovascular system, and other respiratory diseases. You must be aware of this substance to avoid diseases such as narrowing of the airways, wheezing, chest tightness, and shortness of breath.

c. Carbon monoxide (CO)

Air pollution that occurs due to factory waste can emit carbon monoxide which is very dangerous. This substance is colorless and odorless, so it is easily inhaled. This substance can inhibit the amount of oxygen needed by the organs and tissues of the body. In addition, the fatal consequences can lead to death.

Exposure to these pollutants can cause several symptoms such as flu, headaches, dizziness, disorientation, nausea, and fatigue. In people who have a history of heart disease, this substance can cause chest pain. In addition, exposure to high concentrations can cause vision problems and put the unborn baby at risk.

d. Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2)

Nitrogen dioxide is a dangerous pollutant because it contributes to the formation of photochemical smog which is detrimental to health.

Harmful emissions from cars, industry, fossil fuels and gas stoves can emit the dangerous gas nitrogen dioxide (NO2). This substance is easy to find on highways and rooms that use gas for cooking.

If the inhaled gas concentration is too high, it will cause health problems that should not be underestimated. Nitrogen dioxide causes inflammation of the respiratory tract, infections such as influenza and pneumonia, and predisposes to lung infections. This substance can also cause allergies and asthma. If the amount is too much, it will affect the ozone layer and soil structure.

2. Water Pollutants

Water pollutants are pollutants found in water such as chemicals, domestic waste and industrial waste that can damage water quality and cause damage to aquatic ecosystems.

Water that is polluted by pollutants can cause damage and the death of aquatic ecosystems, which are composed of living things and aquatic plants. This can be identified quite easily by observing the phenomenon of the reduction of several species of aquatic animals in their natural habitat.

According to the module Natural Sciences: Environmental Pollution written by Lina Herlina and Rangga Bhakty Iskandar (2020: 7), water pollution can occur in several water sources.

The sources of water in question are rivers, springs, swamps, seas and lakes. Meanwhile, some pollutants will also cause water pollution such as household waste, industrial waste and agricultural waste.

There are several efforts that can be done to prevent pollution that occurs in water, including the following:

Do not use detergent excessively.

Reducing the use of factory fertilizers and switching to using organic fertilizers massively.

Avoid using poison or explosives when catching fish.

Protect leaks from oil drilling installations and tankers in the area around the coast.

3. Soil Pollutants

Soil pollutants are pollutants found in the soil such as chemicals, industrial waste and domestic waste which can damage the soil structure and cause damage to plants and animals.

Soil pollution caused by pollutants occurs because of household waste, agricultural and mining activities. This happens due to the presence of microorganisms in the soil that cannot process inorganic compounds, especially waste.

The impact of soil contamination will cause several things such as the emergence of diseases that will impact on human health. In addition, soil pollutants will also cause the quality of the soil to wither, die or become less fertile.

There are several efforts and precautions that can be taken by humans to protect soil from pollution, including adding nutrients, aerating the soil, watering the soil so that the soil becomes more moist, monitoring the environment and carrying out bioremediation.

Soil pollutants can be subdivided into five types, among which are bio pollutants, agricultural and plantation activities, radioactive pollutants, urban waste and waste from industrial discharges. More about the five types of land pollutants, the following is an explanation:

a. Bio-pollutants

The first type of soil pollutant is bio-pollutants, which are also called pollutants that come from biological agents. These biological agents generally have a role as compost for plants in the soil. This type of pollutant comes from the excretion of birds, other types of animals or humans.

b. Agricultural and plantation activities 

Agriculture or even plantations generally use several types of chemicals to support crop yields. These chemicals can be in the form of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, lime, herbicides, compost and others. Excessive use of chemicals can potentially pollute the soil and be harmful to human health.

c. Radioactive pollutant

Substances from radioactive substances produced by human activities, for example uranium, nitrogen, thorium and so on. The radioactive substance will clog the soil and have a toxic effect on living things in the vicinity.

Examples of radioactive contamination can be found around Fukushima prefecture, Japan. Earthquake and tsunami struck Fukushima in 2011. The natural disaster then caused the explosion of the nuclear reactor at the Fukushima PLTN, causing a radioactive water leak. Then, the zone then becomes a closed area due to the high level of nuclear radiation contamination.

d. Urban waste

The fourth type of soil pollutant is the pollutant produced by households as a result of human activities around cities. These pollutants can be in the form of domestic or commercial waste, plastic waste and other waste materials.

e. Industrial waste

Industries that have a large scale, for example such as mining and production factories will cause land damage in the long term. Industrial waste on a large scale, including metals such as mercury (Hg), lead (Pb), arsenic (As), nickel (Ni) and so on.

In addition there are also several other examples of soil pollution caused by industrial waste. Like the Lapindo mudflow case that occurred in Sidoarjo Regency.

The Lapindo mudflow case is soil pollution caused by a hot mudflow in Sidoarjo Regency, East Java. The hot mudflow occurred due to drilling activities in an exploration well owned by Lapindo Brantas Inc. This pollution causes quite a large impact, including:

Mud inundated 16 villages in 3 districts

Damage to agricultural areas followed by environmental damage

The ground surface sank around the mudflow

Damage to infrastructure facilities and infrastructure, etc

4. Light Pollutants

The next type of pollutant is light pollutant, namely the excessive production of light produced by large cities which will disrupt the activities of nocturnal animals and migratory patterns of birds.

Light that is too bright will cause visual disturbances in humans and will potentially cause eye problems.

5. Noise Pollutants

Noise pollution is noise with a power above 85 decibels, for example, the sound of rock concerts, the sound of land drilling, the sound of sirens, the sound of jet airplane engines, the sound of speakers or sonar from the navy.

Mild noise pollution will cause anxiety disorders and feelings of discomfort. Even high enough noise pollution on a continuous basis, will result in loss of hearing ability in humans.