America faces numerous social problems that have economic implications. People and concerned stakeholders make a mistake of ignoring the economic aspects of a social problem. Pollution is a pressing social problem with far reaching impacts on people’s lives. The simplest definition of pollution is the introduction of foreign elements in the environment leading to ecological imbalance (Brunekreef, Bert and Stephen 1233-1240). The elements in question are unwanted things that are capable of causing distress to the organisms interacting with the environment. In most cases, pollution is viewed in terms of medical and sociological implications ignoring the economic aspects. People assume that since pollution is as a result of engaging in economic activities, the rate of pollution is directly related to economic development. This assumption is not always the case as pollution has many negative economic impacts. Sociologists view pollution in terms of how it affects social institutions and interactions in the society. They, therefore, emphasize on identifying how pollution influences people’s behaviors. Health perspective of pollution focuses on explaining how pollution influences the health of living organisms. Pollution continues to be a major threat to sustainability and stakeholders in the global economy are interested in coming up with ways of reducing its negative impacts. The international community has been putting pressure on governments to implement measures aimed at reducing pollution levels. People fail to understand the negative economic impacts of pollution and only focus on social and health impacts.
Countries differ in terms of their contribution to global pollution. Industrial countries are the major contributors to pollution due to the byproducts that are produced in factories. However, some industrialized countries have implemented sound measures of addressing the problem of pollution. Such measures have cost implications, and the concerned governments allocate resources to address pollution matters. These efforts are also backed by the development of comprehensive pollution laws that guide organizations on matters pollution. It is essential to evaluate the economic aspects of pollution in America as it has been ignored for long. The main types of pollution, raising concerns in America include air, water, noise, and radioactive contamination.
Air pollution occurs when foreign particles are released into the atmosphere. It is caused by both human and natural activities that lead to the emission of losing particles in the atmosphere (Brunekreef, Bert and Stephen 1233). The particles can be gaseous or solid. For instance, a human activity like the burning of fossil fuel leads to the production of both solid and gaseous particles that are released into the atmosphere. Burning fossil fuels in internal combustion engines produces carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, water, and carbon particles (soot). Carbon particles are solid particles that are produced when fossil fuel fails to burn completely. Other air pollutants emanating from human activities are nitrogen and sulphur oxides. These oxides form acids when they come into contact with water. Natural activities such as volcanic eruptions and bush fire lead to the production of a variety of substances that lead to air pollution.
The ramifications of air pollutions are grave and have serious economic impacts. One of the main negative impacts of air pollution is respiratory diseases. Diseases emanating from air pollution are responsible for around two million deaths per year (Flagan 23-37). The deaths occur after struggling with respiratory illnesses for a long duration. The cost of air pollution is huge in terms of government investment in healthcare. The American government spends billions of dollars in treating health complications emanating from air pollution. People also suffer the costs of treating illnesses emanating from respiratory complications resulting from air pollution. Respiratory diseases reduce people’s productivity that in turn reduces economic development at national level.
Global warming is another negative impact of air pollution. It is the overheating of the earth’s surface that causes variations in weather patterns and rising sea level (Houghton 1343-1400). Global warming is caused by the production of greenhouse gasses from human and natural activities. Greenhouse gasses are heavy gasses that are capable of trapping solar energy leading to overheating of the earth’s surface. The international community has been putting pressure on governments to compel producers of greenhouse gasses to cut the level of emission with an aim of reducing global warming. The adverse weather conditions caused by global warming have far reaching economic implications. They cause a draught that leads to a food shortage. Governments are forced to engage in expensive methods of food production such as irrigation. Natural disasters such as floods and droughts caused by global warming are costly to manage. Humanitarian organizations spend billions of dollars in addressing natural calamities emanating from global warming.
The economic impact of global warming can also be viewed in terms of measures implemented by organizations to prevent the production of greenhouse gasses. The larger portion of greenhouse gasses produced in factories is from the utilization of unclean energy such as petroleum and coal. These sources of energy provide a cheap and reliable energy that is used to support energy intensive activities in factories. The production of greenhouse gasses is reduced by using green energy such as solar and wind instead of the unclean energy. Green energy is costly, and its utilization has far reaching economic implications (Brunekreef, Bert and Stephen 1233-1237)
Water pollution refers to the presence of harmful chemical substances in water that compromise its safety. Accessing safe water is a major problem, especially in the third world countries. Some common water pollutants include metallic components, fertilizers, complex industrial compounds, and raw sewage. Data from the United Nations reveals that the number of people who cannot access clean water in the world is 783 million. Evidence shows that more than 2.5 billion people lack access to proper sanitation that is a major threat to water pollution (Agarwal 23-39). Water pollution makes water unsafe for marine life, recreation, consumption, farming, and industrial use. Different forms of water pollution have specific economic impacts.
Water pollution leads interfere with the aquatic life that has substantial economic impacts. Water bodies such as the sea, rivers, lakes, and dams support fishermen who do fishing as an economic activity. Water pollution can lead to the reduction of fish as some pollutants threaten aquatic life. Pollution emanating from inorganic fertilizers deposited in water bodies lead to an increase in aquatic vegetation that interferes with fishing activities (Agarwal 32-37).
Water pollution leads to huge losses in the agricultural sector. Polluted water can cause sicknesses in animals, leading to the deaths or compromised productivity. Farmers spend huge amounts of money in treating animals suffering from waterborne infections. Farmers can resolve to purify the water before using it for feeding the animals an exercise that is costly. Water pollution leads to a loss in crop production as polluted water is not fit for watering crops and processing products.
Water pollution leads to waterborne diseases that are a major health concern. Diseases such as cholera, typhoid, and dysentery emanate from water pollution and are costly to manage. They are communicable and spread quite fast, requiring governments to invest heavily in their containment. They also compromise the productivity of patients as people suffering from these diseases cannot engage in economic activities (Agarwal 23-39). Humanitarian agencies play a critical role in fighting waterborne diseases, and they spend large amounts of money in assisting societies to address the diseases emanating from water pollution.
Water pollution has economic impacts on factories as some factories require water in their activities. Most factories in the food industry need water in their processes. Food safety is of great importance and producers cannot use unsafe water in producing food items. They, therefore, invest in water treating and testing mechanisms with an aim of ensuring that water used in processes does not have negative impacts on the consumers. Water treatment systems are expensive to acquire and maintain.
Based on the above costs, the total economic impact of water pollution is enormous and it slows economic growth. For instance, research conducted in Florida in the year 2012 revealed that water pollution costs $10.5 billion if the state of Florida only. It is clear larger states like California suffer higher costs (Earth Justice).
Noise pollution is a major problem in America due to the increasing human activities that lead to noise pollution. America has numerous airports that cause noise pollution. Aircrafts produces disturbing noises to the surroundings. America is also an industrialized country and machines used in some factories cause noise pollution. People are concerned about the negative impacts of noise pollution. Noise has some negative health implications such as loss of hearing, speech interference, and cardiovascular complications. Treating these health implications is costly to the government and the people affected. Noise pollution can cause disruptions in organizations close to the source of the noise, thus compromising productivity (Decky 927-934).
Utilization of nuclear energy in America is raising serious pollution issues. Nuclear power is one of America’s main sources of energy, and there are always fears of a nuclear meltdown. A meltdown has severe implications for the surrounding and governments incur huge costs in addressing the negative impact. An accident in a nuclear station leads to contamination of the surrounding that has a major impact on the ecosystem. Nuclear materials affect both plant and animal life. It has a long term effect and requires experts to use specialized equipments into detecting radioactive materials. Radioactive materials cause radiations that interfere with life processes. The radiation can be external or internal. External radiation emanates from materials that are external to an organism that emit life threatening rays. Controlling such radiations requires identification of components emitting the harmful rays and disposing them safely. Nuclear waste contaminates water and soil that lead to ingestion of farm produce and water that has radioactive materials (Yamamur 360-363).
Radioactive pollution has far reaching economic impacts. It can make the surrounding inhabitable depending on the level of radioactive contamination. The radioactive materials can pollute the soil, making it unproductive for years. Some nuclear stations in the United States are located close to water bodies that pose the risk of water contamination. Water contaminated with radioactive components cannot be used for any purpose thus causing huge losses to farmers and other entities depending on the polluted water source (Yamamur 360-363).
In conclusion, the debate on pollution in America requires soberness to enable people to visualize the economic impacts of different forms of pollution. Most people only view pollution in terms of health and social implications and fail to understand the economic side of pollution. It is wrong to think that pollution has positive economic impacts emanating from the production activities that cause pollution. America faces numerous pollution challenges that equally create numerous cost centers. Providing ideal solution to pollution problems requires an assessment of the economic side of pollution consequences with an aim of identifying a strategy that leads to the minimization of economic losses emanating from pollution. Failure to factor the economic losses in the fight against pollution leads to creation of subjective pollution control measures that only address the social and health challenges while at the same time failing to address the economic impacts that are a threat to sustainability.
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Brunekreef, Bert and Stephen T Holgate. “Air pollution and health.” Lancet, 360.9341 (2002): 1233-1242. Print.
Decky M. “Noise Polution from Roundabut Traffic in the Outer Environment of Built-Up Areas of Towns.” 12th International Multidisciplinary Scientific GeoConference SGEM 2012. SGEM Scientific GeoConference, 2012. 927-934. Print.
Earth Justice. Report Finds Water Pollution In Florida Costs Up To $10.5 Billion, Annually. 2012. Web. November 30. 2015.
Flagan, Richard C, and John H. Seinfeld. Fundamentals of Air Pollution Engineering. Mineola, NY: Dover, 2012. Print.
Houghton, John. “Global warming.” Reports on Progress in Physics, 68 (2005): 1343-1403. Print.
Yamamura, Eiji. “Experience of technological and natural disasters and their impact on the perceived risk of nuclear accidents after the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan 2011: A cross-country analysis.” Journal of Socio-Economics, 41.4 (2012): 360-363. Print.