Primary Source Archives
Gale Primary Sources contains full-text archives and collections that provide primary sources, including historical documents, archives, journals, and news articles that examine and analyze emissions.
Examine the contemporary issue of pollution, defined as the presence of contaminants in quantities large enough to cause damage, deterioration, or toxicity. While some forms of pollution have natural causes, debates around environmental pollution almost always refer to contamination caused by human activity. There are many different categories of pollution, including air pollution, water pollution, soil or land pollution, noise pollution, and light pollution.
Pollution became a serious public problem as people concentrated in cities to work in newly opened factories during the Industrial Revolution of the nineteenth century. Contaminated water, degraded air quality caused by smoke from coal-burning households and factories, and lack of adequate sanitation measures often resulted in deadly outbreaks of disease, giving rise to calls for legislation to handle the threat to public health that continued into the twentieth century and beyond. Pollution control through the passing of laws such as the Clean Air Act (1970) and Clean Water Act (1972) aimed to reduce the amount of harmful substances released into the environment and clean up existing toxic areas. Water-treatment plants, hazardous-waste management, and recycling programs also attempted to reduce the amount of pollutants in the environment.
Despite advancements, pollution remains a serious concern with enormous impact, particularly in regions of the world with concentrated populations, such as India and China. Chemical run-off from factories and pesticides used in agriculture can damage water systems and soil and harm plant and animal life; chemicals released into the air can concentrate in toxic levels and return to the earth as acid rain; non-biodegradable materials, such as plastic shopping bags, litter the environment and pose hazards to wildlife; oil spills from tankers and pipelines can destroy plants, animals, and fish as well as contaminate drinking water. High levels of air pollutants in particular have been linked to global warming.
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