The Impacts Of Hazardous Waste On Nature
Industrialization has caused a vast amount of hazardous compounds to enter our ecosystem and ultimately have a negative effect on ecological diversity, water availability and human food chain. The past century has seen humans populate and introduce a large number of hazardous chemical substances into the natural environments. Waste products from industries, agricultural processes, structural materials, medicine/drugs, e-wastes and pesticides which all destructively effect the environment.The atmosphere, biosphere and the hydrosphere, work in unison together to provide a habitable environment to the living organisms of the world.
Chemicals penetrate soil, enter the air as emissions and the water as effluent, ultimately poisoning aquatic organisms and affecting the soils ability to support plants. Carbon dioxide which is the main contributor to the greenhouse effect and climate change is also caused by industrial emissions. Chlorofluorocarbons caused ozone depletion planet and over decades has caused an influx of ultraviolent radiation into our planet.
Pesticides and fertilizers from farms and gardens runoff into the water supply causing eutrophication, the build up of algae in the river and lake systems causing death to aquatic organisms and making it impossible to survive. There are also some dangerous chemicals which enter the soil and groundwater causing genetic defects in plants and organisms making it hard to survive and reproduce, hence causing extinctions of certain plants and animal species.A study conducted in Southeast Ukraine found that 0.8% of the Dnepropetrovsk Region remains part of the once 100% natural ecosystem. This region is known for its vast supply of natural resources.
Due to supply industries populated and began mining and manufacturing, using and immense amount of resources and producing a large supply of waste, consequently destroying the surrounding environment. Hazardous materials in atmosphere, soils, vegetation and water were severely polluted and tests were conducted to determine the severity of the issue. Gritsan, NP., Babiy, AP., 2000 found In Dnepropetrovsk Region, the release and composition of industrial emissions caused the poor air quality.
In regards to the soil it was found areas not populated by industries where clean and pollution free, whereas the areas like Dnepropetrovsk and Dneprodzerzhinsk which had a high concentration of environmentally degrading industries consisted of chemicals such as iron, copper, zinc, lead and fluoride and where found in high concentrations." It was determined that concentrations of fluorides in plants growing near large or specific industrial companies were up to 15 times higher than normal." (Gritsan, NP., Babiy, AP., 2000)Food is a necessity for survival and starting from poor disposal or industrial waste we are faced with a problem that produces a chain of events ending up in the blood supply of developing foetuses and the blood and tissues of children, adults and wildlife species.Man-made hazardous compounds are entering animals through exposure, inhalation or consumption. These hazardous compounds produced by industrial processes accumulate up the food chains, inappropriate disposal and leeching from waste and landfill sites and end up in the natural environment and ultimately in the producers and consumers.
Humans are the top of the food chain and hence consume the overall accumulation of hazardous compounds. A report conducted by Toegepast Natuurwetenschappelijk Onderzoek (Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research: TNO) in the Netherlands shows that many of the different types of hazardous compounds exist in human blood indicating that humans are exposed to these chemicals. Exposure can be through additives to consumer products or through food products. Since many of these chemicals have a lipophillic nature they bioaccumulate in the food chain.
The TNO group tested manmade chemicals and found that many of the compounds where present in foods at a concentration of 0.1 to 10 ng/g.The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) report Chain of Contamination the Food Link found also that the most important exposure route for many of man-made chemicals was through a bioaccumulation. Chemicals being dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) a synthetic pesticide and Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) which are organochlorine found in early industrial products. DDT and PCBs are passed through diet.
WWF conducted tests on organochlorine, polychlorinated Biphenyls, brominated flame retardant, perfluorinatedchemicals, phthalates, artificial musks, Alkylphenols isomers of nonylphenol and organotins and found all these hazardous compounds to be present in food products across seven different countries. The tests provide an insight into the seriousness of this global problem.Food being one concern, water availability is another major concern. Many plants and animals need freshwater to survive and hazardous compounds are entering waterways and contaminating freshwater, making it dangerous and unsuitable for consumption. Slavek Vasak, Rianne Brunt and Jasper Griffioen in their report "Arsenic in Groundwater" research maps of groundwater contamination based specifically on; occurrence of no fresh water, high flouride, high arsenic, high nitrate and the pollution from various sources.
In their research they found many countries to have contaminatd water but very diffucult to pinpoint less developed areas around the world with the same problem. Many countries rely on groundwater for thier water supply and do not have the resources and finances to develop ways to remove the chemicals from the water and are forced to consume contaminated water.Hazardous compounds have been used since the beginning of industralisation and it is only in the past decade or two where the effects of these compounds have affected our natural ecosytems and way of life and still their entire affect on iving things may not yet be known. New chemicals and products are being manufactured everyday all in which may cause harm to the the environment. E-waste is a classic example of recent products containing types of chemcals which are harmful to the environment.
In 2005 an estimated 697,000 tonnes of electronic and electrical equipment was consumed while 313,000 tonnes was disposed. (http://www.environment.gov.au/settlements/waste/electricals/index.html, 12/05/10) E-waste contains hazardous materials including mercury, lead, arsenic brominated flame retardants, beryllium and cadmium. If not desposed correctly potentailly all the compounds present can leach into natural ecosystems and cause severe present and future problems.Australia and the world recognize they are faced with a global problem in regards to hazardous wastes. They strive to limit and prevent any damages on the natural environment.In 1992 "The Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal" (http://www.environment.gov.au/settlements/chemicals/hazardous-waste/conventions.html 14/05./10) was implemented and in 2002 was sanctioned by 151 countries including Australia.
Australia signed the Basel Convention in 1992. The Convention is implemented in Australia by the Hazardous Waste (Regulation of Exports and Imports) Act 1989. (http://www.environment.gov.au/settlements/chemicals/hazardous-waste/conventions.html, 14/05/10). It forced countries to environmentally manage hazardous wastes in a safe way when importing and exporting.
In implicating the minimization of hazardous waste production, providing disposal facilities, reducing the movement of hazardous waste, managing waste with regards to the environment and prevent and punish illegal traffic of waste.In light of the above there are alternatives at a local scale where businesses and individuals can prevent hazardous waste problems in many ways; hazardous compounds can be recycled, decrease the use of hazardous materials in production, improve labeling and record keeping of materials, improve storage and provide safer transportation methodsThe environment is a complex system made up on interconnected ecosystems and any alterations can cause dramatic impacts on present and future environments. The impact of humans is also complex we live a complex lifestyle and as we progress technologically and as a species we do it at the expense of the environment. The extinction of species along the chain may mean the loss of useful genetic material or life saving cancer drugs or safer alternatives to the dangerous chemicals in use at the moment.In order to combat this problem we need to weigh out the risk and benefits of a lavish lifestyle and find alternatives to continue advancing without destroying the natural environment.
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