KEY POINTS

  • Earth Day is a movement from the 1970s that calls for greater protection of the planet
  • Each year, about 100 million people die from the effects brought about by pollution
  • Lack of safe drinking water kills about 1,000 children in India every year

Earth Day is a movement that started way back in 1970. Its aim is to call for greater efforts in protecting the planet and its resources.

On Earth Day 2021, take a look at 16 alarming facts about pollution and the adverse effects it has brought to various corners of the world, courtesy of Conserve Energy Future, DoSomething.org and Statista.

Oceans are becoming more acidic due to greenhouse emissions.

Industrialization and improper land management continue to increase the acid concentration in the world's oceans. This has led to a loss of aquatic life as high levels of acidity make it difficult for some living things to thrive underwater. Consequently, when humans consume fish from polluted oceans, they are at risk of contracting diseases.

Around 1,000 children die in India every year due to diseases caused by polluted water.

In places where there is a poor waste management system, humans are at risk of dying from sickness brought about by polluted water. In India alone, about 1,000 children die every year of diarrheal infections. 

About 4,000 people died in the great "Smog Disaster" in London in 1952.

Within a few days, approximately 4,000 people died in London due to high concentrations of pollutants in the air. Smog is a yellowish fog made up of various gases that cause the air to become hazy. This in turn makes it difficult to breathe. Smog is only one of the effects of air pollution and is formed when fuels are burnt.

Noise pollution is the most neglected type of pollution.

Noise pollution, whether man-made or environmental, takes place where there is an excessive amount of noise, according to Conserve Energy Future. Although the most overlooked among all other types, noise pollution causes hearing problems as well as physical and psychological issues.

People who live in high-density air pollution areas have a 20% higher risk of dying from lung cancer.

Those living in places with high levels of air pollution are at higher risk of developing lung cancer, heart disease and other respiratory problems, as per National Geographic. Some scientists also believe that air pollution could cause birth defects. Almost 2.5 million people die each year of illnesses brought about by polluted air.

Each year, the Mississippi River carries about 1.5 million metric tons of nitrogen pollution into the Gulf of Mexico.

Approximately 1.5 million metric tons of nitrogen pollution end up in the Gulf of Mexico each year, washed about by the Mississippi River. This has caused a "dead zone" to form -- an area where there is low to no oxygen present. Dead zones are capable of killing fish and other marine life.

Animal agriculture is responsible for up to 91% of Amazon’s destruction.

Animal agriculture, otherwise known as factory farming, is the leading cause of habitat destruction, including that of the Amazon rainforest. This type of agriculture also contributes to species extinction and water pollution.

A large portion of the world’s generated waste is disposed of improperly on open dumpsites.

Statista revealed that about half of the world's population does not have access to a proper waste management system, which is why a huge chunk of the world's generated waste is deposited on open dumpsites. This poses a risk to those living nearby landfills as it is known to cause health issues.

China is the world’s largest producer of carbon dioxide; the United States comes second.

The Union of Concerned Scientists reported that China is the largest sharer of the world's carbon emissions (about 28%). At 15%, the United States comes in second place. An increase in carbon dioxide is known to trap additional heat in the planet due to the overabundance of greenhouse gases.

A tsunami in Japan during the year 2011 created 70 miles of debris of radioactive waste.

The devastating tsunami that hit Japan has caused radioactive waste to spread. Exposure to such can be very hazardous to human health and could likely cause death. Radiation has also been linked to birth defects and cancer.

Cows produce 150 billion gallons of methane per day.

High levels of methane in the atmosphere are a large contributor to climate change. Compared to other greenhouse gases, methane is also the most efficient in trapping heat, adding to the effects of global warming. Interestingly, cows contribute a massive amount of methane to the world each day.

More than 1 billion people worldwide don’t have access to safe drinking water.

More than 1 billion people across the world lack access to safe drinking water. The lack of safe drinking water is prevalent among marginalized communities and health risks are prevalent in these areas. It is estimated that about 5,000 people die each day because of drinking unclean water.

Approximately 40% of the lakes in America are too polluted for fishing, aquatic life, or swimming.

Water pollution has caused about 40% of the lakes in America to be unsafe. Consumption of fish from these bodies of water can lead to the development of serious diseases. Meanwhile, swimming in these polluted lakes can cause nausea, vomiting and fever.

Pollution is one of the biggest global killers.

Each year, about 100 million people die of sickness brought about by pollution. Pollution-related deaths are comparable to malaria and HIV.

Most of the hazardous pollutants in the atmosphere are released to surface water, groundwater and land.

Touching almost every aspect of the environment, dangerous pollutants such as methane, lead and carbon monoxide continue to spread in water, air and soil.

Livestock is responsible for 65% of all human-related emissions of nitrous oxide.

Nitrous oxide is known to have 296 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide. This greenhouse gas can stay in the atmosphere for 150 years and contributes to the depletion of the ozone layer. Surprisingly, most of it largely originates from livestock.

Air pollution from vehicles, industry, power generation and farming was meanwhile blamed for over a million premature deaths across India in 2019 Air pollution from vehicles, industry, power generation and farming was meanwhile blamed for over a million premature deaths across India in 2019 Photo: AFP / Jewel SAMAD