Waste and Public Health - What are the danger?

Pollution emitted in industrial areas represents a threat to human health and the surrounding natural resources. We have a tendency to believe that the production processes are the only source of environmental damage, and often forget about the possible long-term effects of harmful production practices. In the Caucasus for example, industrial complexes such as Rustavi (Georgia), Sumgait (Azerbaijan) or Alaverdi (Armenia) have significantly polluted the air, soil and water, sometimes for great distances. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the subsequent economic crises, industrial activity has dramatically reduced. We may think that the closure of these huge industrial areas would improve the quality of the environment. Unfortunately, this ignores the threat of the remaining waste, abandoned and poorly stored. It represents an even bigger danger because it stands neglected as it degrades and leaks into the earth without any surveillance whatsoever.

Surface Water Contamination
Changes in the water chemistry due to surface water contamination can affect all levels of an ecosystem. It can impact the health of lower food chain organisms and, consequently, the availability of food up through the food chain. It can damage the health of wetlands and impair their ability to support healthy ecosystems, control flooding, and filter pollutants from storm water runoff. The health of animals and humans are affected when they drink or bathe in contaminated water. In addition aquatic organisms, like fish and shellfish, can accumulate and concentrate contaminants in their bodies. When other animals or humans ingest these organisms, they receive a much higher dose of contaminant than they would have if they had been directly exposed to the original contamination.

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Groundwater Contamination
Contaminated groundwater can adversely affect animals, plants and humans if it is removed from the ground by manmade or natural processes. Depending on the geology of the area, groundwater may rise to the surface through springs or seeps, fl ow laterally into nearby rivers, streams, or ponds, or sink deeper into the earth. In many parts of the world, groundwater is pumped out of the ground to be used for drinking, bathing, other household uses, agriculture, and industry.

Soil Contamination
Contaminants in the soil can harm plants when they take up the contamination through their roots. Ingesting, inhaling, or touching contaminated soil, as well as eating plants or animals that have accumulated soil contaminants can adversely impact the health of humans and animals.

Air Contamination
Air pollution can cause respiratory problems and other adverse health effects as contaminants are absorbed from the lungs into other parts of the body. Certain air contaminants can also harm animals and humans when they contact the skin. Plants rely on respiration for their growth and can also be affected by exposure to contaminants transported in the air.

Leachate is the liquid that forms as water trickles through contaminated areas leaching out the chemicals. For example, the leaching of landfill can result in a leachate containing a cocktail of chemicals. In agricultural areas leaching may concentrate pesticides or fertilizers and in feedlots bacteria may be leached from the soil. The movement of contaminated leachate may result in hazardous substances entering surface water, groundwater or soil.

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