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Effects of Water Pollution

Fresh water resources are threatened by over exploitation and poor management and ecological degradation. Water pollution is a serious issue. The effects of water pollution have a strong impact on the delicate balance in the natural ecosystem. This will ultimately impact the humans and other living organisms.The effects of water pollution are different and depend on the chemicals dumped in that particular location. One of the effects of water pollution are the illness caused by it and are easily spread. Intake of unclean water can spread illness. Polluted water also has a bad smell and color. Polluted water with chemicals causes serious water-borne diseases. 

The effects of water pollution could be classified into:
  • effects on ecosystem
  • effects on animal health
  • effects on human health

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Effects on Ecosystem

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  • Ecosystems can be severely affected or damaged by water pollution. 
  • Contamination of groundwater from pesticides causes damage to the reproductive system in the wildlife ecosystem. 
  • When sewage water, agricultural run-off that contain organic materials are discharged into fresh water, causes increase in the growth of algae in turn causing oxygen depletion. 
  • Low levels of oxygen in rivers and lakes due to water pollution are a major cause for extinction of indigenous organisms. 
  • Destruction in ecosystem is caused due to the rise in temperature in water like the coral reefs are affected by the bleaching effect due to warmer temperatures. 
  • Water pollution may also cause flooding due to accumulation of solid waste and soil erosion in streams and rivers. 
  • Ground water and surface water are contaminated with heavy metals, persistent organic pollutants and nutrients. 
  • Water pollution kills life that inhabits the water-based ecosystem, disrupting the natural food chain. 
  • Due to water pollution other than inorganic nutrient input and inflow of waste water; organic wastes and plant nutrients like nitrates and phosphates are decomposed. This promotes algal bloom especially blue-green algae. These algae grow fast consuming all the dissolved oxygen, killing the water animals. This is known as eutrophication. 
  • The non-biodegradable pesticides and chemicals cause mass destruction of aquatic life. 
  • Steep increase in the BOD[Biological Oxygen Demand] levels of water. 
  • Imbalance in host-parasite relations in the ecosystem, changing the food webs and food chain. 
  • Affects microbial population.
  • Deposition of hazardous chemicals in soil leads to soil infertility. 

Effects on Animal Health

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  • Water pollution kills life that depends on these water bodies. 
  • Fishes and the aquatic organisms are poisoned due to industrial chemicals and agricultural pesticides. 
  • Human litter let into water system gets the aquatic animals caught and can get killed due to suffocation. 
  • Oil spills in water causes animals to die as they ingest it or come across it. Oil cannot be dissolved in water so it causes suffocation in fish and birds. 
  • Oil-contaminated water causes water birds to die from exposure to cold water and air due to feather damage. 
  • Animals that eat dead fish from contaminated streams are affected. 
  • Fish, birds, dolphins and many other animals are killed by pollutants in their habitat.
  • Reproduction rate in reduced in aquatic organisms.
  • Incidences of diseases increase.
  • Bioaccumulative and non-biodegradable pesticides are accumulated in animal bodies. 
  • Biomagnification of hazards chemicals like organochlorine pesticides like DDT, BHC, Endrin.


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  • Bioaccumulation is the accumulation of harmful substances like pesticides, organic chemicals in an organism. 
  • Bioaccumulation happens when an organism absorbs substances that are toxic at a greater rate than at which the substance is lost. 
  • The longer the half-life of the substance the greater is the risk of poisoning though levels of toxins are not very high in the environment. 
  • Bioconcentration is the uptake and accumulation of toxic substances from water alone. 


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  • Biomagnification is also known biological magnification or bioamplification. 
  • Biomagnification is a process where substances like pesticides or heavy metals move up the food chain. 
  • When chemicals or pesticides are let into rivers or lakes they are consumed by aquatic organisms like fish, which in turn are consumed by large birds, animals or humans. 
  • These harmful substances become concentrated in tissues, internal organs as it moves up the food chain. 
  • These are substances that increase in concentration in living organisms as they are taken in due to contaminated air, water or food as these substances are metabolized or excreted very slowly.  

Effects on Human Health

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  • Humans are affected by water pollution. Diseases like hepatitis are caused by eating seafood that is poisoned or contaminated. 
  • In developing nations, there are frequent outbreaks of cholera and diseases due to poor drinking water quality from contaminated waters. 
  • Swimming and drinking in contaminated water can causes skin diseases and also can lead to cancer, reproductive problems, typhoid fever and stomach ailments in humans.
  • heavy metals poisoning due to consumption of contaminated fish. For example : Mercury poisoning interferes with the nervous system development in foetuses and young children. 
  • Polluted drinking water can causes cholera or typhoid infections and also diarrhea.
  • Highly polluted water can harm internal organs like heart and kidneys. 
  • Pesticide contamination of ground water can cause endocrine and reproductive problems to animals and humans.
  • Sewage contamination carries harmful pathogens and causes disease outbreak.
  • Synthetic organics cause serious damage to human health.
  • Chemicals like fluoride, arsenic, lead, chlorine and petrochemicals in water can causes adverse effect on human health.
  • Water borne diseases like hepatitis, cholera, dysentry and typhoid are common and affect large populations in the tropical regions. 
  • Pesticides like organophosphates and carbonates affect and damage the nervous system and are carcinogenic.
  • Lead accumulation in the body can affect the central nervous system,putting children and pregnant women at high risk.
  • Excess of fluorides causes yellowing of teeth and damage to spinal cord and other crippling diseases.
  • Nitrate contamination can prove fatal for infants as it can restrict the oxygen to the reach the brain causing the 'blue-baby' syndrome. It can also cause digestive tract cancers and eutrophication in water bodies. 
  • Arsenic poisoning cause serious liver and nervous system damage, vascular disease and skin cancer. 
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