Water Populations By Plastic Water bottles.
How Can Water Pollution Affect Animals, Homes and Health?
Contaminated water not only impacts wildlife but can affect your drinking water.
Every summer, polluted water pours down the Mississippi River, poisoning the water in the Gulf of Mexico and causing an 8,000-square- mile dead zone — an area roughly the size of New Jersey — in which aquatic life cannot survive . While a dramatic example, water pollution regularly affects the health of wildlife, ecosystems and perhaps your family.
Eutrophication and Dead Zones
Dead zones like the one found at the Gulf of Mexico occur when sewage discharge and fertilizer runoff — from farms, golf courses and lawns — enter surface waters. Intended to promote the growth of plants, fertilizers also encourage the growth of algae, called eutrophication. As these aquatic plants die, they sink to the bottom, where the bacteria that decompose them use up the oxygen in the water, making the water uninhabitable for aquatic animals. While adult fish can usually move to a higher-oxygen environment, many crustaceans and shellfish cannot move and die from lack of oxygen.
Harmful Algal Blooms
Proliferation of toxic algae species also impacts the health of both wildlife and humans. When these algae flourish because of nutrient pollution in the water, they produce toxins that poison aquatic organisms, such as seabirds, fish, sea turtles and aquatic mammals, like dolphins, manatees and sea lions. Other algae species clog the gills of fish and aquatic invertebrates. (See References 3) When people become exposed to algae-infested waters or consume fish or shellfish poisoned by algal toxins, they can become ill and can even die .
Drinking Water Contamination
Drinking water comes from surface water, such as lakes and rivers, and from groundwater (see References 5). Pollution in these sources affects the quality and safety of water available in your home and, if the problem is not detected, it can affect your health. Pollution of drinking water occurs because of contamination by human and animal waste, mining activities, fertilizer and pesticides from homes and farms, industrial wastes, hazardous wastes generated by dry cleaners and gas stations, landfills and improperly disposed-of household wastes.
Pollution with sewage or manure runoff can cause microbial contamination of drinking water. This results in gastrointestinal diseases that can be fatal in high risk individuals. Nitrates — chemicals used in synthetic fertilizers — can leach into groundwater or run off into surface waters. While most individuals suffer no adverse effects from high levels of nitrates, infants cannot convert them into a harmless substance; if they consume nitrates, they can die from blue baby syndrome, a disorder in which the blood cannot properly carry oxygen. Infants, young children, pregnant and nursing women and some elderly individuals are most at risk for nitrate poisoning.