Industrial pollution is a severe consequence of industry and factory processes.
While impacting the local and global environments, these processes also have significant impacts on the living conditions of those who live nearby.
This article explains how industrial pollution affects the living conditions near factories.
Localized Industrial Pollution
Industrial processes require high amounts of resource consumption and waste disposal, which often result in mass pollution. While pollution from industries can have severe global impacts, the effects on local communities can be devastating. Industrial pollution comes from:
- Toxic air emissions
- Water pollution and consumption
- Habitat degradation
These pollutants can pose major risks to human health, with disproportionate effects on those living near factories.
Air pollution is a major threat to human health, especially to those who are regularly exposed to toxic air contaminants. Factories emit a number of air pollutants, including:
- Carbon monoxide
- Carbon dioxide
- Airborne lead
- Sulfur Dioxide
- Particulate matter
While these pollutants can be transported across the world through wind currents, they are heavily localized at their place of emission. This results in industrialized in heavy exposure to those living in industrialized communities.
Long-term exposure to these pollutants can have significant impacts on human health. In heavily industrialized areas, air pollution can cause severe health conditions and exacerbate existing conditions, resulting in approximately 30% of premature deaths where pollution is most extreme.
Studies have shown that communities located near heavily polluted areas have a significantly higher risk of:
- Cancers, especially childhood cancers
- Respiratory diseases
- Cardiovascular diseases
Certain air pollutants, including sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, cause acid rain when emitted in high quantities. Acid rain is a localized effect that can damage infrastructure, as well as severely degrade local environments. Impacts of acid rain include:
- Contaminated water
- Extensive damage to infrastructure
- Destroyed ecosystems
- Limited food availability due to ecosystem damage
Acid rain poses a major threat to human health as well, causing an average of 550 premature deaths per year.
Water Pollution and Consumption
Industrial activities require extreme amounts of water for growing and extracting raw resources like cotton, timber, and ore, as well as in industrial processes like cooling. In many cases, water for these processes comes from local sources, including streams, rivers, and lakes, that would otherwise be directed to communities as drinking water.
Industries like Nestle pump roughly 400 gallons of freshwater per minute out of water bodies that would otherwise be used as public drinking water, and oftentimes sell that water back to the communities for higher prices. Industrial activities like these have depleted access to drinking water across the world, and have contributed heavily to the extreme water scarcity facing 6% of the world’s population.
In addition to consumption, industrial pollution is responsible for the vast majority of water contamination worldwide. The effects of water pollution are heavily localized in areas in close vicinity to factories, and suffer the direct effects of contaminated water.
Many industries use water systems like rivers and streams as cheap methods of waste disposal, especially in developing nations with limited environmental protection and enforcement. This kind of dumping results in water contaminated with:
Oftentimes, these contaminants are difficult to detect, resulting in people unknowingly consuming them in their drinking water. In heavily industrialized areas, especially those in developing countries, contaminated waters may be the only source of drinking water due to industrial water consumption. In low-income countries where the majority of industrial factories are located, only 8% of water is treated, resulting in heavily contaminated drinking water. Even short-term exposure to contaminated drinking water can result in:
- Gastrointestinal diseases
- Infections and waterborne diseases (cholera, typhoid, hepatitis, etc.)
- Damages to nervous systems
- Damages immune systems
Read more: How Industrial Pollution Affects Global Waters
When industrial pollution contaminates local waters, large outbreaks of diseases and health conditions can plague the affected communities. This can put heavy pressure on hospitals and medical supplies, as well as strain the local economies.
In addition to industrial pollution affecting air and water resources, factory processes can result in mass habitat degradation that substantially harms local communities that rely on healthy ecosystems for food and climate stability.
Industrial processes are the leading cause of habitat degradation across the world, with mass quantities of land cleared for resource harvesting and planting. When areas lose the majority of their forests and other natural ecosystems, the environmental consequences can significantly impact the local communities. Habitat degradation can result in:
- Further air pollution from lack of natural air purifiers
- Further water pollution from lack of natural water filtration
- Reduced food sources
- Climate instability
Deforestation and habitat degradation are common problems worldwide, but local communities suffer heavily from their impacts. Many indigenous peoples directly rely on rainforests for their livelihood, using the ecosystems for food, water, inhabitancy, and culture. Industrial practices have drastically reduced the quality of life of many indigenous cultures throughout North and South America, with industrialization forcing them out of their generational homes.
Habitat degradation can also result in ecosystem cascades that further impact local communities. Studies have shown that deforestation directly results in warming temperatures in surrounding areas. This can lead to significant long-term effects throughout local ecosystems, including drying waterbodies, crop failure, and food scarcity.
Read more: Pollution of Shared Resources
The effects of industrial pollution can have widespread, global ramifications, but local communities are heavily impacted by pollution and resource consumption. The effects of industrial pollution are expected to increase worldwide without intervention, and the localized effects of such pollution will be disproportionately influential on local communities.