Pollutant

Pollutant

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Encyclopedia
A pollutant is a waste material that pollutes air, water or soil, and is the cause of pollution
Pollution
Pollution is the introduction of contaminants into a natural environment that causes instability, disorder, harm or discomfort to the ecosystem i.e. physical systems or living organisms. Pollution can take the form of chemical substances or energy, such as noise, heat or light...

.

Three factors determine the severity of a pollutant: its chemical nature, its concentration and its persistence. Some pollutants are biodegradable and therefore will not persist in the environment
Environment (biophysical)
The biophysical environment is the combined modeling of the physical environment and the biological life forms within the environment, and includes all variables, parameters as well as conditions and modes inside the Earth's biosphere. The biophysical environment can be divided into two categories:...

 in the long term. However the degradation products of some pollutants are themselves polluting such as the products DDE and DDD produced from degradation of DDT
DDT
DDT is one of the most well-known synthetic insecticides. It is a chemical with a long, unique, and controversial history....


a-Stock pollutants


Pollutants that the environment has little or no absorptive capacity
Absorptive capacity
In business administration, absorptive capacity has been defined as "a firm's ability to recognize the value of new information, assimilate it, and apply it to commercial ends". It is studied on individual, group, firm, and national levels. Antecedents are prior-based knowledge and communication...

 are called stock pollutants (e.g. persistent synthetic chemicals, non-biodegradable plastics, and heavy metals
Heavy metals
A heavy metal is a member of a loosely-defined subset of elements that exhibit metallic properties. It mainly includes the transition metals, some metalloids, lanthanides, and actinides. Many different definitions have been proposed—some based on density, some on atomic number or atomic weight,...

). Stock pollutants accumulate in the environment over time. The damage they cause increases as more pollutant is emitted, and persists as the pollutant accumulates. Stock pollutants can create a burden for future generations by passing on damage that persists well after the benefits received from incurring that damage have been forgotten.

b-Fund pollutants


Fund pollutants are those for which the environment has some absorptive capacity. Fund pollutants do not cause damage to the environment unless the emission rate exceeds the receiving environment's absorptive capacity (e.g. carbon dioxide, which is absorbed by plants and oceans). Fund pollutants are not destroyed, but rather converted into less harmful substances, or diluted/dispersed to non-harmful concentrations.

Notable pollutants


Notable pollutants include the following groups:
  • Heavy metals
  • Persistent organic pollutant
    Persistent organic pollutant
    thumb|right|275px|State parties to the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic PollutantsPersistent organic pollutants are organic compounds that are resistant to environmental degradation through chemical, biological, and photolytic processes...

    s POP
  • Environmental Persistent Pharmaceutical Pollutant
    Environmental persistent pharmaceutical pollutant
    The term Environmental Pharmaceutical Persistent Pollutant , was suggested in the nomination 2010 of pharmaceuticals and environment as an emerging issue to Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management by the International Society of Doctors for the Environment .Pharmaceuticals are...

    s EPPP
  • Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon
    Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon
    Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons , also known as poly-aromatic hydrocarbons or polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons, are potent atmospheric pollutants that consist of fused aromatic rings and do not contain heteroatoms or carry substituents. Naphthalene is the simplest example of a PAH...

    s
  • Volatile organic compound
    Volatile organic compound
    Volatile organic compounds are organic chemicals that have a high vapor pressure at ordinary, room-temperature conditions. Their high vapor pressure results from a low boiling point, which causes large numbers of molecules to evaporate or sublimate from the liquid or solid form of the compound and...

    s
  • Environmental xenobiotics

Zones of influence


Pollutants can also be defined by their zones of influence, both horizontally and vertically.

Horizontal zone


The horizontal zone refers to the area that is damaged by a pollutant. Local pollutants cause damage near the emission source. Regional pollutants cause damage further from the emission source.

Vertical zone


The vertical zone is referred to whether the damage is ground-level or atmospheric. Surface pollutants cause damage by concentrations of the pollutant accumulating near the Earth's surface Global pollutants cause damage by concentrations in the atmosphere
Atmosphere
An atmosphere is a layer of gases that may surround a material body of sufficient mass, and that is held in place by the gravity of the body. An atmosphere may be retained for a longer duration, if the gravity is high and the atmosphere's temperature is low...


International


Pollutants can cross international borders and therefore international regulations are needed for their control. The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants
Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants
Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants is an international environmental treaty, signed in 2001 and effective from May 2004, that aims to eliminate or restrict the production and use of persistent organic pollutants .- History :...

, which entered into force in 2004, is an international legally binding agreement for the control of persistent organic pollutants. Pollutant Release and Transfer Register
Pollutant Release and Transfer Register
Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers are systems to collect and disseminate information on environmental releases and transfers of toxic chemicals from industrial and other facilities....

s (PRTR) are systems to collect and disseminate information on environmental releases and transfers of toxic chemicals from industrial and other facilities.....

European Union


The European Pollutant Emission Register
European Pollutant Emission Register
The European Pollutant Emission Register is a Pollutant Release and Transfer Register providing access to information on the annual emissions of industrial facilities in the Member States of the European Union , as well as Norway...

 is a type of PRTR providing access to information on the annual emissions of industrial facilities in the Member States of the European Union
European Union
The European Union is an economic and political union of 27 independent member states which are located primarily in Europe. The EU traces its origins from the European Coal and Steel Community and the European Economic Community , formed by six countries in 1958...

, as well as Norway.

United States


Clean Air Act standards. Under the Clean Air Act
Clean Air Act (United States)
The Clean Air Act is a United States federal law enacted by Congress, and signed by President Richard Nixon on December 31, 1970 to control air pollution on a national level. It requires the Environmental Protection Agency to develop and enforce regulations to protect the general public from...

, the National Ambient Air Quality Standards
National Ambient Air Quality Standards
The National Ambient Air Quality Standards are standards established by the United States Environmental Protection Agency under authority of the Clean Air Act that apply for outdoor air throughout the country...

 (NAAQS) are standards developed for outdoor air quality. The National Emissions Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants
National Emissions Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants
The National Emissions Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants are emissions standards set by the United States EPA for an air pollutant not covered by NAAQS that may cause an increase in fatalities or in serious, irreversible, or incapacitating illness...

 are emission standards that are set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) which are not covered by the NAAQS.

Clean Water Act standards. Under the Clean Water Act
Clean Water Act
The Clean Water Act is the primary federal law in the United States governing water pollution. Commonly abbreviated as the CWA, the act established the goals of eliminating releases of high amounts of toxic substances into water, eliminating additional water pollution by 1985, and ensuring that...

, EPA promulgated national standards for municipal sewage treatment
Sewage treatment
Sewage treatment, or domestic wastewater treatment, is the process of removing contaminants from wastewater and household sewage, both runoff and domestic. It includes physical, chemical, and biological processes to remove physical, chemical and biological contaminants...

 plants, also called publicly owned treatment works
Publicly owned treatment works
A publicly owned treatment works is a term used in the United States for a sewage treatment plant that is owned, and usually operated, by a government agency. In the U.S., POTWs are typically owned by local government agencies, and are usually designed to treat domestic sewage and not industrial...

,
in the Secondary Treatment Regulation. National standards for industrial dischargers are called Effluent guidelines
Effluent guidelines
Effluent guidelines are U.S. national standards for wastewater discharges to surface waters and publicly owned treatment works . The United States Environmental Protection Agency issues effluent guidelines for categories of industrial sources of water pollution under Title III of the Clean Water...

(for existing sources) and New Source Performance Standards, and currently cover over 50 industrial categories. In addition, the Act requires states to publish water quality standards for individual water bodies to provide additional protection where the national standards are insufficient.

RCRA standards. The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act
Resource Conservation and Recovery Act
The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act , enacted in 1976, is the principal Federal law in the United States governing the disposal of solid waste and hazardous waste.-History and Goals:...

 (RCRA) regulates the management, transport and disposal of municipal solid waste
Municipal solid waste
Municipal solid waste , commonly known as trash or garbage , refuse or rubbish is a waste type consisting of everyday items we consume and discard. It predominantly includes food wastes, yard wastes, containers and product packaging, and other miscellaneous inorganic wastes from residential,...

, hazardous waste
Hazardous waste
A hazardous waste is waste that poses substantial or potential threats to public health or the environment. According to the U.S. environmental laws hazardous wastes fall into two major categories: characteristic wastes and listed wastes.Characteristic hazardous wastes are materials that are known...

 and underground storage tank
Underground storage tank
An Underground Storage Tank , in United States environmental law, is a tank and any underground piping connected to the tank that has at least 10 percent of its combined volume underground.-Tank types:...

s.

See also

  • Conventional pollutant
    Conventional pollutant
    A conventional pollutant is a term used in the USA to describe a water pollutant that is amenable to treatment by a municipal sewage treatment plant. A basic list of conventional pollutants is defined in the U.S. Clean Water Act...

     - U.S. Clean Water Act
  • List of environmental issues
  • Pollutant Standards Index
    Pollutant Standards Index
    The Pollutant Standards Index, or PSI, provides a uniform system of measuring pollution levels for the major air pollutants. It is based on a scale devised by the United States Environmental Protection Agency to provide a way for broadcasts and newspapers to report air quality on a daily basis.The...