Anthropogenic Pollution: Sources, Types, Consequences, Prevention

The anthropogenic pollution is the introduction by humans in the environment of pollutants altering its quality causing a negative effect. This introduction of pollutants is a consequence of activities or processes triggered by humans.

In most cases, anthropogenic pollution reaches a great impact due to its frequency and magnitude. This makes the natural remedial mechanisms to regain balance insufficient.

The sources of anthropogenic pollution are varied, the main ones being those related to industrial activities, transport and urban activity. The consumption of goods is perhaps one of the most important sources of pollution that exists.

Anthropogenic pollution can be chemical, physical and biological, with serious consequences for natural ecosystems and for the human being himself. Among other things, it produces a massive extinction of biodiversity and the deterioration of ecosystems vital to human survival.

The solution lies in a change in the human development model, which requires a new ethical attitude towards nature and towards ourselves.

Sources of anthropogenic pollution

All human activity is susceptible to being a source of anthropogenic contamination, however, there are some especially shocking activities.

– Industry

From the first Industrial Revolution in the mid-nineteenth century, human beings began to venture into mass production. Since then, technological development has made it possible to increase production at an industrial level that generates all kinds of waste.

Industry is a source of pollution by generating solid waste, effluents and gases, which pollute the soil, water and air.

Oil and petrochemical industry

This is one of the most polluting industrial sectors, since oil generates pollution in its extraction, transportation, refining and use. Together with coal, it forms the so-called fossil fuels that contribute the greatest amount of carbon, heavy metals and other pollutants to the environment.

Thermoelectric Industry

Plants that generate electricity by burning coal are one of the main sources of CO2 and atmospheric mercury. CO2 is a powerful greenhouse gas responsible for a high percentage of global warming.

On the other hand, mercury is a highly toxic element for living organisms including humans.

– Mining

The mineral extraction activity is highly polluting, both due to the physical alteration it generates in the landscape and its waste. The processes of excavation and fragmentation of soil and rocks, release heavy metals that pass into bodies of water.

Many products that are used to facilitate the extraction of minerals are highly polluting such as mercury and arsenic in gold mining.

– Transportation

The activities of transporting people and goods are based on the burning of fossil fuels, particularly the automobile traffic of large cities. A high proportion of the CO2 expelled into the atmosphere originates from automobile exhaust.

– Agriculture and breeding

Modern agriculture and farming are based on high levels of energy subsidies, with the use of machinery and the application of agrochemicals.


Industrial monocultures like wheat, cotton, corn, soybeans and others lead to the deforestation of vast natural areas. On the other hand, guaranteeing commercial yield levels requires the application of large amounts of pesticides and fertilizers.

Most of these compounds are washed away by runoff waters and end up in bodies of water. The excess of agrochemicals is one of the main causes of eutrophication of water bodies, causing the death of aquatic fauna.


Animal production is another source of anthropogenic contamination, due to the high amount of inputs used and due to the impact of production itself. Human-induced large livestock concentrations are one of the major sources of methane gas, one of the main greenhouse gases.

– Cities, consumption and life habits

Large cities are gigantic sources of solid waste and polluting effluents. The consumption model of modern society generates a very high rate of use and waste.

In the same way, the sewage carries detergents, oils, paints and other substances highly toxic for life.


One of the greatest pollutants in the environment is plastics, the largest proportion of which is produced in large cities. The bags and a wide variety of containers are thrown and end up in the soil and waters.

Types of anthropogenic pollution

questions about pollution

There are several ways to classify the types of anthropogenic pollution, which can be done by sources of pollution or by the nature of the pollutants. As for the latter type we have physical, chemical and biological pollution.

– Physical contamination

This consists of material objects, fragments or particles that are produced as waste from human activities. There are several types of physical contamination:

Solid waste pollution

It is what is commonly known as garbage and includes a whole range of objects. Among these, plastic packaging, electronic waste, paper, cardboard and solid organic waste.

Sewage and sediment pollution

Human beings also generate liquid waste that is the product of the use of water for industrial and domestic activities. Sewage carries polluting chemicals in the paper industry, automotive paint shops, paint and lacquer factories, and others.

On the other hand, domestic sewage, a product of washing clothes, floors, and household goods ends up in the environment. In the same way, the waters used for personal bathing and evacuating organic waste and contain detergents, surfactants and other substances that are harmful to the environment.

Air pollution by material particles

Many industrial and even domestic activities generate small material particles that end up in the air. For example the application of paints, the sanding of metals or the cutting of wood, as well as the burning of fuels and other materials.

Blast smelting furnaces, the textile industry, automobile exhaust and thermoelectric plants emit particulate matter into the air. These particles are highly harmful to human health, just as they affect wild plants and animals.

Noise pollution

Another form of anthropogenic pollution is the noise generated by many human activities. Noise invades both the living quarters and the work environment causing serious hearing and nervous problems.

In addition, excessive and recurring noises cause serious problems in natural environments. This is because they alter animal behavior patterns and even cause the abandonment of natural areas.

Thermal pollution

The excess heat artificially generated by certain human activities is also a polluting factor. The heating of water due to its use as a refrigerant in certain industrial plants and its return to the environment produces negative effects.

Similarly, the heat generated by blast furnaces is detrimental in work environments even taking the appropriate measures.

Light pollution

Artificial light in natural environments produces alterations in animal behavior because it alters the circadian rhythm or biological clock. This affects the sleep and wake patterns that affect the reproduction and feeding processes.

Electromagnetic pollution

Although it is a recent field of study with little conclusive information, there is some evidence indicating that electromagnetic waves of low intensity are harmful. For example, electromagnetic waves generated by telecommunication antennas have a proven negative effect on the reproductive behavior of some species of birds.

– Chemical contamination

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One of the most alarming consequences of anthropogenic pollution is the increase in the global average temperature. It is the so-called global warming that is generating serious climate imbalances, affecting the security and nutrition of humanity.

Greenhouse effect

Today it is accepted that the fundamental cause of overheating is the increase in the greenhouse effect due to industrial gases. Among them, CO2 and methane help prevent infrared radiation from escaping, increasing the earth’s temperature.

Others, such as hydrofluorocarbons and nitrous oxides, affect the ozone layer in charge of filtering the ultraviolet radiation that warms the Earth.

– Loss of drinking water sources

Chemical and physical contamination of surface and underground water bodies threatens to wipe out scarce sources of drinking water. Currently, a large number of basins in the world are highly polluted.

– Pollution of the oceans

The current development model is based on the exponential production and consumption of goods with profit as the only engine, which is unsustainable. Thus, the Davos 2019 report of the World Economic Forum raises the need to modify this scheme and address social and environmental needs.

Legislation and control

The legal system must be strengthened both at the national and international levels, in order to reduce anthropogenic pollution. Likewise, guarantee compliance mechanisms by companies beyond the national scope.

An example of the drawbacks in this area is represented by the difficulties in reaching agreements regarding carbon emission quotas and complying with them. This is essential to reduce the rate of CO2 emission into the atmosphere and reduce global warming.

Amigabl environmentally technological development and

Technological development must be put at the service of conserving the environment, without depriving economic interests. In many cases there is the most environmentally friendly technology, but it is not widely used because it is not profitable.


The textile fashion industry

The textile fashion industry is one of the most polluting in the world, generating waste in all phases of the process. The main textile crop is cotton, which uses a large amount of agrochemicals, especially insecticides.

Then the processing of the fiber and the manufacture of clothing pieces uses chemicals and processes that are not friendly to the environment. On the other hand, the fashion industry is the most emblematic promoter of consumerism, thus generating a high rate of polluting waste.

The shower and the soap

An activity as simple as the daily shower is a source of anthropogenic contamination. In the first place, it is estimated that 150 liters of water are used in a single shower, which when projected by the inhabitants of a large city is a high consumption.

The expenditure of water implies the expenditure of energy to mobilize and store it, and therefore pollution. In addition, a large amount of sewage and pollutants such as detergents and other surfactants are produced.

For example, triclosan is a powerful antibacterial and fungicide that remains active when it reaches rivers and seas. Also, sodium lauryl ether sulfate is a widely used detergent because it is cheap and lathering.

The plastic islands

Plastic is the representative material of our era, a totally anthropogenic product, and emblematic of pollution because it is not biodegradable. Today, gigantic plastic islands have been detected in almost all the world’s oceans.

These are accumulations of plastic microparticles that reach those particular areas by the patterns of the ocean currents. These materials take thousands of years to degrade, persisting small particles that when ingested by marine organisms end up causing their death.


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