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65 Startling Facts About . . .

Pollution

  1. Approximately 1/3 of male fish in British rivers are in the process of changing sex due to pollution. Hormones in human sewage, including those produced by the female contraceptive pill, are thought to be the main cause.q
  2. Americans buy over 29 million bottles of water every year. Making all those bottles uses 17 million barrels of crude oil annually, which would be enough fuel to keep 1 million cars on the road for one year. Only 13% of those bottles are recycled. Plastic bottles take centuries to decompose—and if they are burned, they release toxic byproducts such as chlorine gas and ash containing heavy metals.g
  3. water pollution Nearly 1,000 children in India die each day from diarrhoeal sickness
  4. An estimated 1,000 children in India die every day due to disease caused by polluted water.f
  5. The 2011 tsunami in Japan created a 70-mile-long island of debris, which is floating out into the Pacific Ocean. The debris is made up of houses, plastics, bodies, cars, and radioactive waste. Experts estimate that it will reach Hawaii in two years and the U.S. West Coast a year later.u
  6. In response to the nuclear crisis after the 2011 tsunami, the Japanese government dumped 11 million liters (2 million gallons) of radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean. A few days later, radioactive fish were found 50 miles offshore.u
  7. ocean dead zones After the 2011 tsunami, the Japanese dumped thousands of tons of radioactive water into the Pacific
  8. One of the more common and dangerous pollutants in the environment is cadmium, which kills human fetal sex organ cells. Its widespread presence means it is in almost everything we eat and drink.a
  9. Fourteen billion pounds of garbage, mostly plastic, is dumped into the ocean every year.o
  10. More oil is seeped into the ocean each year as a result of leaking cars and other non-point sources than was spilled by the Exxon Valdez.d
  11. Polluted coastal water costs the global economy $12.8 billion a year in death and disease.j
  12. Over 1 million seabirds are killed by plastic waste per year. Over 100,000 sea mammals and countless fish are killed per year due to pollution.i
  13. air pollution China Pollution in China affects the weather in the United States
  14. Pollution in China alters the weather in the United States. It takes just five days for the jet stream to carry heavy air pollution from China to the U.S. Once in the atmosphere over the U.S., the pollution stops clouds from producing rain and snow—i.e., more pollution equals less precipitation.c
  15. Concentrations of two common pollutants, PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid) and PFOSA (perfluorooctanesulfonic acid), which can be found in nonstick cookware and stain-repellant fabrics, can impair immunity in children. They can also prevent vaccines from triggering sufficient quantities of protective antibodies.r
  16. A 2010 study found that children in families who live near freeways are twice as likely to have autism as kids who live farther away from freeways. Scientists believe the increased risk is due to exposure to pollutants given off by freeway traffic.s
  17. The Ganges River in India is one of the most polluted rivers in the world. The pollution includes sewage, trash, food, and animal remains. In some places the Ganges is septic, and corpses of semi-cremated adults or enshrouded babies drift down the river.f
  18. According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 6,400 people die every year in Mexico City and more than 1 million suffer from permanent breathing problems due to air pollution.x
  19. Between 1956 and 1968, a factory in Japan released mercury directly into the sea, which contaminated fish with the highly toxic metallic element. More than 2,000 people became seriously ill from mercury poisoning and many of them died.i
  20. The oil from the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill polluted about 1,300 miles (2,092 km) of coastline near Alaska. The spilled oil killed as many as 500,000 seabirds and other animals.x
  21. acid rain Acid rain's damage is widespread
  22. The ancient Greek Acropolis is believed to have crumbled more in the last 40 years than it has in the previous 2,500 due to acid rain. Nearly 40% of China’s land area is affected by acid rain, and by 1984 half of the trees in Germany’s Black Forest were damaged by acid rain.i
  23. Each person in the U.S. produces about 4 pounds (2 kg) of garbage a day.x
  24. The 1986 Chernobyl nuclear power plant explosion, the world’s worst nuclear disaster, immediately killed 30 people, though as many as 9,000 people may have died from radiation poisoning. The 19-mile exclusion zone around the plant still remains uninhabitable.d
  25. The United Arab Emirates is one of the world’s biggest waste producers and water users. In 2007, the World Wildlife Fund said the UAE has the world’s largest per-capita ecological footprint, which means the country puts more demands on the environment than any other country. It also currently consumes 20 billion plastic bags out of a global figure of 500 billion.z
  26. car pollution Pakistan Pakistan has some of highest levels of air pollution in the world
  27. Air pollution in Pakistan is nearly 10 times higher than levels considered safe by the World Health Organization. Every car in Pakistan creates 25% more carbon than one car in the U.S.z
  28. Though Botswana has only 2 million people, it is the second most polluted nation in the world. Pollution from the mineral industry and wild fires are the main causes.z
  29. Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa and the eighth most populous in the world, with over 155 million people. It is also Africa’s largest oil producer, accounting for 2.3 million barrels of crude oil a day. However, the UN recently declared that 50 years of oil pollution in the Ogoniland would require the world’s largest and biggest oil cleanup.z
  30. The world’s largest heavy metal smelting complex is in the Siberian city of Norilsk. Human life expectancy there is 10 years lower than in other Russian cities.w
  31. Between 1930 and 1998, nearly 300,000 tons of chemical waste was improperly disposed of in Dzershinsk, Russia, a Cold War chemicals manufacturing site. Toxic levels are 17 million times the safe limit. In 2003, the death rate of the city exceeded the birth rate by 260%.w
  32. In Rudnaya Pristan, Russia, lead contamination has resulted in child blood levels eight to 20 times higher than allowable U.S. levels.w
  33. Kabwe Zambia Children in Kabwe, Zambia have some of highest blood levels of lead in the world
  34. In Kabwe, Zambia, child blood levels of lead are five to 10 times higher than the allowable EPA maximum.v
  35. A study of 60 beaches in Southern California revealed that water pollution is highest when tides ebb during the new and full moon.b
  36. A car from 1985 emits approximately 38 times more carbon monoxide than a 2001 model. BMWs were the most environmentally friendly, while Chrysler and Mitsubishi were the worst polluters. Additionally, cars that get better gas mileage also pollute less.t
  37. In December 1952, air pollution in London created fatal smog that immediately killed 4,000 people and then 8,000 more in the following weeks. Burning coal was the main cause.x
  38. For every 1 million tons of oil that is shipped, about 1 ton is spilled.d
  39. Lake Karachay Lake Karachay, Russia is the most polluted spot on Earth
  40. Lake Karachay, located in the southern Ural Mountains in Russia, is considered to be the most polluted spot on earth after it was used for decades as a dumping site for nuclear waste. Spending just 5 minutes near the lake unprotected can kill a person. In the 1960s, the lake dried out and radioactive dust carried by the wind irradiated half a million people with radiation equivalent to the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima.x
  41. The largest e-waste site on earth is in Guiyu, China. Approximately 88% of children there have dangerous levels of lead in their blood.h
  42. Approximately 130,000 computers are thrown out every day in the U.S. Over 100 million cell phones are thrown out annually.h
  43. The world’s largest CO2 emitter is China. China emits more CO2 than the U.S. and Canada combined, up by 171% since 2000.y
  44. Department of Defense The U.S. Department of Defense is the world's largest polluter
  45. The world’s largest polluter is the U.S. Department of Defense, producing more hazardous waste than the five largest U.S. chemical companies combined.v
  46. People who live in places with high levels of air pollutants have a 20% higher risk of death from lung cancer than people who live in less-polluted areas. While smokers make up 85-90% of lung cancer cases, up to 15,000 nonsmokers die in the U.S. from lung cancer.e
  47. The soot and smoke from indoor cooking fires in undeveloped countries create deadly indoor pollution and kill as many as 2 million people annually, which is a higher death rate than for malaria.k
  48. The Mississippi River carries an estimated 1.5 million metric tons of nitrogen pollution into the Gulf of Mexico each year, creating a “dead zone” in the Gulf each summer about the size of New Jersey.o
  49. Approximately 46% of the lakes in America are too polluted for fishing, aquatic life, or swimming.o
  50. In the United States, people use over 1.8 billion disposable diapers, 220 million tires, and 30 billion foam cups per year.x
  51. Each year 1.2 trillion gallons of untreated sewage, storm water, and industrial waste are dumped into U.S. waters.x
  52. Factories in the United States discharge approximately 3 million tons of toxic chemicals into the water, air, and land annually.x
  53. Over 80% of items buried in landfills could be recycled instead.j
  54. Today, there are between 300 and 500 chemicals in the average person’s body that were not found in anyone’s body before 1920. Each year there are thousands of new chemicals sold or used in new products. There are more than 75,000 synthetic chemicals on the market today.x
  55. Globally, 15 million children under the age of five die each year because of diseases caused by drinking water.x
  56. For 1.1.billion people around the world, clean water in unobtainable. Almost half of the world’s population does not have proper water treatment.v
  57. waste US produces Americans make up 5% of the world population, yet they produce 35% of the world's waste
  58. Americans make up an estimated 5% of the world’s population. However, the U.S. produces an estimated 30% of the world’s waste and uses 25% of the world’s resources.x
  59. The average office employee throws away 360 pounds of recyclable paper each year.x
  60. The amount of plastic waste has been increasing about 10% each year for the past 20 years.j
  61. If all the tires Americans throw away each year were stacked on top of each other, the pile would reach 32,000 miles high—a greater distance than the circumference of the earth at the equator (24,901 miles).j
  62. The average family in North America, Europe, and Australia throws away more than a ton of garbage each year.x
  63. The Environmental Protection Agency reports that the U.S. generates over 256 million tons of officially classified hazardous waste annually. This does not include toxic and hazardous waste that are not regulated or monitored by the EPA.x
  64. Between 1950 and 1975, approximately 5 billion metric tons of highly poisonous chemicals were improperly disposed of in the U.S.x
  65. It will cost between $370 billion and $1.7 trillion to clean up hazardous waste in the U.S. The EPA states there are at least 36,000 seriously contaminated sites in the U.S.v
  66. Every year, the United States creates 11 billion tons of solid waste.v
  67. In Florida alone, hundreds of thousands of sea turtle hatchlings are killed due to light pollution. Hatchlings gravitate toward brighter lights, and, consequently, crawl toward city lights rather than to the sea. Additionally, light pollution affects the breeding and migration of many types of birds.l
  68. Over 51 billion pieces of litter are thrown onto the roads in the United States annually. Litter cleanup costs an estimated $11.5 billion in the U.S. each year.m
  69. People who litter are more likely to be men between 18-34 years old, smokers, people who eat at fast food places at least two times per week, and drive more than 50 miles a day.m
  70. Antarctica Antarctica is the cleanest place on Earth
  71. Antarctica is the cleanest place on Earth and is protected by strong antipollution laws.d
  72. Noise pollution can cause stress-related illness, hearing loss, sleep disruption, lost productivity, and high blood pressure. The EPA estimates that millions of people in the U.S. adversely suffer from noise pollution.n
  73. Scientists report that carbon dioxide emissions are decreasing the pH of the oceans and, in essence, acidifying them.x
  74. A single NASA space shuttle launch produces 28 tons of carbon dioxide. An average car generates about half a ton per month. A launch also releases 23 tons of harmful particulate matter, which then settles around the launch site. Additionally, 13 tons of hydrochloric acid kills fish and plants within half a mile of the launch site. Researchers note that the environmental cost of a launch is approximately the same as of New York City over a weekend.p
  75. Los Angeles International Airport emits approximately 19,000 tons of carbon dioxide—a month. The roughly 33,000 planes that fly in and out of the airport each month release about 800,000 tons of carbon dioxide.p
    Largest Polluters in the world (2011) v
    Polluter Estimated Population at Risk Region Most Impacted
    1. Artisanal Gold Mining 3,506,600 Africa
    2. Industrial Estates (Lead Pollution) 2,981,200 Southeast Asia
    3. Agricultural Production (Pesticide Pollution) 2,245,000 Central America
    4. Lead Smelting 1,988,800 Eastern Europe, Northern Eurasia, Central Asia
    5. Tannery Operations (Chromium Pollution) 1,848,100 South Asia
    6. Mining and Ore (Mercury Pollution) 1,591,700 Southeast Asia
    7. Mining and Ore Processing (Lead Pollution) 1,239,500 Africa
    8. Lead Acid Battery Recycling 967,800 South America
    9. Naturally Occurring Arsenic in Ground Water 750,700 South Asia
    10. Pesticide Manufacturing and Storage 735,400 South Asia

    10 Most polluted Cities in the World (2011) v
    1. Linfen, China
    2. Mailuu-Suu, Kyrgyzstan
    3. Norilsk, Russia
    4. Sukinda, India
    5. Dzerzhinsk, Russia
    6. Chernobyl, Ukraine
    7. Kabwe, Zambia
    8. Sumgayit, Azerbaijan
    9. Tianying, China
    10. La Oroya, Peru

    10 Most Polluted Countries in the World (2011) z
    1. Mongolia
    2. Botswana
    3. Pakistan
    4. Senegal
    5. Saudi Arabia
    6. Egypt
    7. United Arab Emirates
    8. Iran
    9. Nigeria
    10. Kuwait

    10 Most Air-Polluted Cities in the U.S. (2011) w
    1. Bakersfield, California
    2. Fresno, California
    3. Riverside/San Bernardino/Ontario, California
    4. Fairbanks, Alaska
    5. Modesto, California
    6. Hilo, Hawaii
    7. Visalia-Porterville, California
    8. Hanford-Corcoran, California
    9. San Diego, California
    10. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

    Carbon Dioxide Emissions by Country (2009): Change 2008 to 2009 y
    1. China: +7.5%
    2. United States: -7.0%
    3. India: +8.7%
    4. Russia: -7.4%
    5. Japan: -9.7%
    6. Germany: -7.0%
    7. Canada: -9.6%
    8. South Korea: +1.2%
    9. Iran: +3.2%
    10. United Kingdom: -7.8%

-- Posted February 12, 2012

References

a Agin, Dan. “Cadmium Pollution Kills Fetal Sex Organ Cells.” Huffington Post. October 15, 2009. January 25, 2012.

b “Beach Pollution Worse during a Full Moon.” Live Science. August 1, 2005. Accessed: January 25, 2012.

c Blackstone, John. “Pollution from China Alters Weather in U.S.” CBS News. December 12, 2011. Accessed: January 25, 2012.

d Brown, Paul. 2003. Global Pollution. Chicago, IL: Raintree.

e Chan, Amanda. “Could Pollution Increase Lung Cancer Risk?” Huffington Post. October 31, 2011. Accessed: January 25, 2012.

f “Creaking, Groaning: Infrastructure Is India’s Biggest Handicap.” The Economist. December 11, 2008.

g Didier, Suzanne. “Water Bottle Pollution Facts.” National Geographic. 2011. Accessed: January 25, 2012.

h “Following the Trail of Toxic E-Waste.” 60 Minutes. January 8, 2010. Accessed: January 25, 2012.

i Gifford, Clive. 2006. Planet under Pressure: Pollution. North Mankato, MN: Heinemann-Raintree Library.

j Jakab, Cheryl. 2007. Global Issues: Clean Air and Water. North Mankato, MN: Smart Apple Media.

k Kilham, Chris. “The Dangers of Indoor Air Pollution.” Fox News. October 26, 2011. Accessed: January 25, 2012.

l Klinkenborg, Verlyn. “Our Vanishing Night.” National Geographic. November 2008. Accessed: January 25, 2012.

m “Litter Prevention.” Keep America Beautiful. 2006. Accessed: January 25, 2012.

n “Noise Pollution.” United States Environmental Protection Agency. July 2011. Accessed: January 25, 2012.

o Orme, Helen. 2008. Earth in Danger: Pollution. New York, NY: Bearport Publishing.

p Patel-Predd, Prachi. “A Spaceport for Treehuggers.” Discover Magazine. November 26, 2007. Accessed: January 25, 2012.

q “Pollution ‘Changes Sex of Fish.’” BBC News. July 10, 2004. Accessed: January 25, 2012.

r Raloff, Janet. “’Nonstick’ Pollutants May Cut Efficiency of Vaccines in Kids.” Science News. January 24, 2012. Accessed: January 25, 2012.

s Saltzman, Sammy Rose. “Autism: Air Pollution May Be to Blame, Study Suggests.” CBS News. December 17, 2010. Accessed: January 25, 2012.

t “Tailpipe Test: Study Finds Worst Polluters.” Live Science. January 9, 2006. Accessed: January 25, 2012.

u Taylor, John. “70 Miles of Flotsam and Radioactive Waste Dumped into the Ocean.” Protect the Ocean. April 12, 2011. Accessed: January 25, 2012.

v “Top Ten Toxic Pollution Problems 2011.”  Blacksmith Institute. 2012. Accessed: January 25, 2012.

w Walsh, Bryan. “The 10 Most Polluted Air-Polluted Cities in the U.S.” Time. September 29, 2011. Accessed: January 25, 2012.

x Wehr, Kevin. 2011. Green Culture: An A-to-Z Guide. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

y “World Carbon Dioxide Emissions Data by Country: China Speeds ahead of the Rest.” The Guardian. January 31, 2011. Accessed: January 25, 2012.

z “World’s Most Polluted Countries.” CNBC. 2012. Accessed: January 25, 2012.