Pollution - Environmental pollution is any discharge of material or energy into water, land, or air that causes or may cause acute (short-term) or chronic (long-term) detriment to the Earth's ecological balance or that lowers the quality of life. Pollutants may cause primary damage, with direct identifiable impact on the environment, or secondary damage in the form of minor perturbations in the delicate balance of the biological food web that are detectable only over long time periods. Until relatively recently in humanity's history, where pollution has existed, it has been primarily a local problem. The industrialization of society, the introduction of motorized vehicles, and the explosion of the human population, however, have caused an exponential growth in the production of goods and services. Coupled with this growth has been a tremendous increase in waste by-products. The indiscriminate discharge of untreated industrial and domestic wastes into waterways, the spewing of thousands of tons of particulates and airborne gases into the atmosphere, the "throwaway" attitude toward solid wastes, and the use of newly developed chemicals without considering potential consequences have resulted in major environmental disasters, including the formation of smog in the Los Angeles area since the late 1940s and the pollution of large areas of the Mediterranean Sea. Technology has begun to solve some pollution problems (see pollution control), and public awareness of the extent of pollution will eventually force governments to undertake more effective environmental planning and adopt more effective antipollution measures.
Efforts to improve the standard of living for humans--through the control of nature and the development of new products--have also resulted in the pollution, or contamination, of the environment. Much of the world's air, water, and land are now partially poisoned by chemical wastes. Some places have become uninhabitable. This pollution exposes...
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