What Causes Air and Water Pollution?

An Online Treasure Hunt
For Third Year High School (Science)


Introduction

Air and water pollution are two of the most pressing problems in the world today. Many experts are trying to address these problems, which obviously cannot be solved by one person alone. They are so complex that the entire scientific community, as well as experts from other disciplines, must work together to help solve them. And there’s you and me, of course. Unless we do our part, pollution will just grow worse and worse until the Earth will no longer be a fit place for us to live in! Alas, where will we go then?

Our ability to help address the problem of pollution will be greatly increased by a better understanding of what causes it. In this activity, we will learn about the causes of air and water pollution. The point of view we will use in looking at these problems is that of chemists. We will read about what substances cause air and water pollution.

The activity requires that you work in groups of three. Each group must locate the answers to the questions below in the Web resources listed. After answering the questions, proceed to the Big Question.
 

The Questions

  1. What are the common air pollutants? What elements comprise each of these pollutants?
  2. When is ozone beneficial to human beings and other living things and when is it harmful? How does air pollution damage beneficial ozone and how does air pollution make harmful ozone worse?
  3. What is the term for the particles found in the air, including dust, dirt, soot, smoke, and liquid droplets? What contributes the most to the quantity of particles in the air?
  4. What are the greenhouse gases and how are they produced?
  5. Water pollutants can be biological or chemical in nature. What is/are the difference/s between these two types? What are the common chemical pollutants?
  6. What chemical properties affect the movement and distribution of pollutants in water?
  7. What is eutrophication and what causes it?
     

Resources

Air Pollution

http://www.healthandenergy.com/air_pollution_causes.htm
http://www.factmonster.com/ipka/A0004695.html
http://www.aeat.co.uk/netcen/airqual/kinetics/
http://www.theozonehole.com/ozone.htm
http://epa.gov/air/urbanair/pm/what1.html
http://www.epa.gov/globalwarming/kids/greenhouse.html
http://www.dar.csiro.au/publications/gh_faq.htm#gh7

Water Pollution
http://www.lenntech.com/Water-Pollution-FAQ.htm
http://www.sph.emory.edu/pehsu/water.htm
http://www.lenntech.com/water-pollutants-FAQ.htm

 

The Big Question

Air and water pollution are a grave cause for concern because they harm our environment and our health. These in turn have adverse impacts on the economy. The following Web pages contain information on the health impact of air and water pollution:

http://www.lbl.gov/Education/ELSI/Frames/pollution-health-effects-f.html
http://www.envirohealthaction.org/pollution/health_effects/
http://www.internethealthlibrary.com/Environmental-Health/water-and-cancer.htm
http://www.ca.uky.edu/enri/pubs/enri404.pdf

In the Philippines, air and water pollution is increasing at an alarming rate. In your community (barangay or barrio), what human activities contribute to air and water pollution? What substances are released to the environment during these activities? How can the air and water pollution in your community be reduced?

Write a short report answering these questions and submit your report at our next class meeting. The report is individual work—that is, each of you will write and submit your own report.


Authored by F. Ditan and P. Arinto