Understanding Pollution: How Safe is Our Soil?

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Pollution affects many things in the world in which we live, but one thing that is not often talked about is the contamination of soil.  One of the reasons that soil pollution is not often talked about is the old saying “out of sight, out of mind.”  We live in a concrete jungle.  Sidewalks, roads, highways, houses, skyscrapers, and office buildings cover the soil that our ancestors were so familiar with.  The problem is that pretending a problem does not exist doesn’t make it go away.  There are many dangers to both the environment, our food supply, and ultimately us that are caused by soil contamination, and it has a myriad of sources from industry to products that we use without even thinking about it.

Soil contamination 1

Soil contamination is defined as “the presence of man-made chemicals or other alteration to the natural soil environment.”[i]  As you can imagine there are a great many manmade chemicals, and a large number of those chemicals have detrimental effects humans.  Since our food is grown is soil, if that soil is contaminated then the contaminants will find their way into whatever food in grown there  Just a few of the more common chemicals that are contaminating our soil are asbestos, heavy metals, such as lead, and finally pesticides.  Asbestos can cause scarring of the lungs in humans which in turn causes shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, and coughing; all of which worsen as time passes, and it has also been labeled as a human carcinogen which means it can cause cancers.[ii]  Because asbestos particles are so small and invisible to the naked eye, and are so difficult to break up they spread invisibly through water, air, and soil.[iii]  Lead is quite possibly one of the most dangerous of soil contaminants.  In adults lead poisoning causes a loss of coordination, nerve damage to sensory organs, loss of hearing and vision, increased blood pressure, and problems with our reproductive systems.[iv]  In children the effects of exposure to lead are even worse.  Damage to the brain and nervous system, vision and hearing loss, liver damage, kidney damage, and even death are possible in children who have been exposed to lead.  Finally, we come to pesticides.  Because pesticides can be created from many different compounds there are many different effects that they can have on human health.  Some pesticides will increase the likelihood of cancer in humans, others will attack the endocrine system which is responsible for the secretion of hormones, and still others will attack the nervous system and our very ability to think and function.[v]

Soil contamination 2

One of the biggest problems of pesticides specifically, and other contaminants in general, is that they do not just kill their intended victims, but also any other small organisms which may be in the soil.[vi]  This is a bad thing because the soil requires those organisms in order to remain fertile ground for plants and more importantly the crops upon which we rely on for a stable supply of food.[vii]  If the soil is contaminated by any contaminant the possible yield, or amount of crops able to be grown, in a given area will go down.  This obviously is worrying because it affects the size of our food supply.  The food supply that has allowed us to settle down and build society as we know it as the dominant species on the planet.  When the contaminant is first introduced into the soil it will begin to kill off local fungi and bacteria.[viii]   That may seem like a good thing, but on a micro-organism level fungi and bacteria are the symbiotic glues that hold soil ecosystems together, and as they are destroyed the soil begins to erode.  Over time, the fertility of the soil will continue to go down further decreasing the size of the crops being grown there.  In addition, many plants that are grown in contaminated soil will be smaller than plants grown in non-contaminated soil.[ix]

Soil contamination 3

The sources of soil contamination are many and varied. One of the major causes of soil contamination is actually our famers.  As the world’s population has grown, and more and more food is needed to feed that population, farmers have begun to overuse fertilizers and pesticides and they are having a detrimental effect on the land upon which they are used.[x]  Another major contributor is the waste water from industrial plants and factories.[xi]  As that waste water is released into the environment it will contaminate not just the soil, but also any other water source that it comes into contact with.  A third major source is our sewage.  Think of what’s in the sewer.  Now, think about where our sewage ends up.  It at any point that sewage comes into contact with fertile soil it will leave something behind, and that soil will not be as fertile as it once was.  Then there is contamination from the waste produced by nuclear power plants, which are dumped underground, and leak and spread through the soil they are dumped into.[xii]

Soil contamination is a serious issue that affects not just the environment and human health, but also strikes at the backbone of civilization: agriculture.  The fact that we willfully use items such as pesticides, lead paints, and nuclear power shows that our society has reached a dangerous point where we must decide if we care about consequences.  It is not our children or our grandchildren who will have to deal with the problem of soil pollution.  That is, it is not them who will have to deal with it unless we decide that it is not worth our time.  The world in which we live has many problems, but there are solutions out there.  The solutions can begin to be found it just one thing is accomplish:  Making people care.


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About the Author

Dom resizeDominick Principe is a graduate of Rowan University with dual Bachelor Degrees in Elementary Education and Writing Arts.  He is a prolific reader who devours any book put before him, and feels that life is one great long book without an end.  He fills his hours constantly exploring new information, and seeking to educate himself in the ways of the world.  He puts all of that knowledge and his passion for learning to good use teaching English as a second language to students of all ages.  When his nose isn’t buried in a book, or in class teaching, then he can generally be found typing away at his computer working on some random piece of writing that he was inspired to do.


[i] “Soil Contamination.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily. Web. 23 Nov. 2014. <http://www.sciencedaily.com/articles/s/soil_contamination.htm&gt;.

[ii] “Asbestos.” EPA. Environmental Protection Agency. Web. 23 Nov. 2014. <http://www.epa.gov/ttnatw01/hlthef/asbestos.html&gt;.

[iii]“Asbestos Ecological Impacts: The Affects of Asbestos on the Environment on Human Health.” Bright Hub. Web. 23 Nov. 2014. <http://www.brighthub.com/environment/science-environmental/articles/86213.aspx&gt;.

[iv] “Human Health and Lead.” EPA. Environmental Protection Agency. Web. 23 Nov. 2014. <http://www.epa.gov/superfund/lead/health.htm&gt;.

[v] “Human Health Issues | Pesticides | US EPA.” EPA. Environmental Protection Agency. Web. 23 Nov. 2014. <http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/health/human.htm&gt;.

[vi] “Pesticides and Pollution.” Pesticides and Pollution. Web. 23 Nov. 2014. <http://www.greenfootsteps.com/pesticides-and-pollution.html#sthash.LBwsNQax.dpbs&gt;.

[vii] “Pesticides and Pollution.” Pesticides and Pollution. Web. 23 Nov. 2014. <http://www.greenfootsteps.com/pesticides-and-pollution.html#sthash.LBwsNQax.dpbs&gt;.

[viii] “Causes and Effects of Soil Pollution – Conserve Energy Future.” ConserveEnergyFuture. Web. 23 Nov. 2014. <http://www.conserve-energy-future.com/causes-and-effects-of-soil-pollution.php&gt;.

[ix] “Causes and Effects of Soil Pollution – Conserve Energy Future.” ConserveEnergyFuture. Web. 23 Nov. 2014. <http://www.conserve-energy-future.com/causes-and-effects-of-soil-pollution.php&gt;.

[x] “Causes and Effects of Soil Pollution – Conserve Energy Future.” ConserveEnergyFuture. Web. 23 Nov. 2014. <http://www.conserve-energy-future.com/causes-and-effects-of-soil-pollution.php&gt;.

[xi] “What Is Soil Contamination.” What Is Soil Contamination. Web. 23 Nov. 2014. <http://eschooltoday.com/pollution/land-pollution/what-is-soil-contamination.html&gt;.

[xii] “Causes and Effects of Soil Pollution – Conserve Energy Future.” ConserveEnergyFuture. Web. 23 Nov. 2014. <http://www.conserve-energy-future.com/causes-and-effects-of-soil-pollution.php&gt;.

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Understanding Pollution: The True Impact of Pesticides

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Pesticides are a chemical that is designed to kill insects, and it is doing its job; sadly it is wiping out entire populations of animals and insects, and its effects on human health are quite severe as well.[i]   Pesticides are quite common, and you most likely have some in your home unless you buy only organically grown food. All food, unless it´s organically grown, is sprayed with pesticides, meaning that most fruit or vegetables you have are covered with a layer of pesticides which does not go away after a quick rinse. Apples, lettuce, potatoes and strawberries are some of the foods with the highest pesticide content.  Imagine spraying your food with insect spray before eating, that’s kind of what it´s like.  Also, if you’re a pet owner and your dog or cat has a flea collar, or you use bug spray you are using a pesticide.[ii] Every year, 1 billion pounds of pesticides are used in the United States alone, and 5.6 billion pounds are used worldwide; and it is estimated that worldwide 25 million agricultural workers are poisoned a year.[iii]  Pesticides are damaging not just human health, but are wiping out entire species.

Pesticides 1

Pesticides, for all of their supposed benefits to humanity, are made of extremely dangerous chemicals that have debilitating effects on humans.  In the United States alone 67000 people a year are hospitalized, and 27 die a year from pesticide poisoning.[iv]  There are three stages of pesticide poisoning, and they include Mild, Moderate, and Severe.[v]  Symptoms of mild pesticide poison are irritation of the nose, throat, eyes or skin, a headache, dizziness, a loss of appetite, thirst, nausea, diarrhea, sweating, a feeling of weakness or fatigue, a sense of restlessness and nervousness, unexplained changes in mood, and insomnia.[vi]  Those, as mentioned previously, are the MILD effects.  It’s quite a list, and things only get worse I’m afraid.  Moderate pesticide poisoning includes such effects as vomiting, excessive salivation, coughing, a feeling of constriction in the throat and chest, cramps in your abdomen, a blurring of your vision, rapidly increased pulse, excessive sweating, trembling throughout your body, a loss of muscle coordination, becoming confused, and a sense of extreme weakness throughout your body.[vii]  Still, we are not done. The severe effects of pesticides are an inability to breathe, a buildup of excessive mucous in your air passageways, pinpoint pupils, the appearance of chemicals burns on your skin, an increased rate of breathing, a loss of reflexes, the twitching of your muscles, unconsciousness, and ultimately, death.[viii]  The above effects are just the noticeable effects of pesticide poisoning.  Other, long term effects include an increased rate of cancer, the possibility of birth defects, the chance of damage to your genetic code, liver failure, and injury to the reproductive systems including sterility, and nerve damage.[ix]  We use pesticides in our yards, parks, and on our food supply…I’m beginning to wonder if that’s a good idea.

Pesticides 3

Pesticides effects on animal wildlife are even worse than those on humans, at least in terms of the long term effects on animal populations, and some 7 out of 10 biologists believe that we are in the middle of a great extinction of animals, partly due to pesticides.[x]  One of the most common pesticides in known as Atrazine, and more than 75 million pounds of it are used every year on farms in the United States.[xi]  Atrazine it is having a devastating effect on frog populations.  Did you ever see Jurassic Park?  In the movie they use frog DNA to complete the genetic chain of the dinosaurs.  All of the dinosaurs in the park were supposed to be female, but because of the frog DNA the dinosaurs were able to change their sex into males.  Well, atrazine is forcing a similar change on frogs; except atrazine is really making many of the frogs turn into females, and this is obviously having an effect on their population size.[xii]  Atrazine is banned in Switzerland, and the Environmental Protection Agency is currently conducting a review of the pesticide.[xiii]  You may be thinking, so what they’re frogs.  Well, frogs, like every other animal, have an effect on their ecosystems.  With the decline of the frog population the level of algae in rivers and streams is rising, and this is impacting the other organisms who call those rivers and streams home.[xiv]

Pesticides 2

Another animal species that is being devastated by pesticides is honey bees.  Since 2006 bee populations have fallen roughly 30% a year, and while scientists are still trying to figure out exactly what is causing this death rate, many are convinced that pesticides are, at least partly, to blame.[xv]  In fact, certain countries such as France, Germany, and Italy have banned what are called neonicotinoids, a pesticide which is less harmful to animals, but more harmful to insects than regular pesticides.[xvi]  Bees in those countries are beginning to recover to some extent.  Now, I’m not personally a fan of bees, but they are the great pollinators.  Roughly 1/3 of all food grown worldwide relies upon bees to pollinate.[xvii]  Just a sample of some of the foods and other products that bees are essential for include peaches, apples, strawberries, onions, cherries, coffee, cotton, vanilla, and cocoa.[xviii]  Needless to say, bees are a very important part of the ecosystem, our food supply, and since food is sold, the world’s economy.  30% of the population a year dying means that something is seriously wrong, and if we don’t want to lose our apples, chocolate, coffee, and many other foods then we need to do something.

Pesticides are used primarily to protect our crops from insects and other pests as they grow.  It’s a commendable goal as our food supply is very important, and insects have been known to devastate crops in the past.  However, sometimes the solution to a problem causes more and bigger problems that what it was trying to solve.  That is the case with pesticides, but its use will not stop without more of a push.  As long as people are not complaining what reason do agricultural firms have to stop the use of pesticides?  Not much.  People need to be informed about what is being done to, and for, their food supply.  We don’t live in a perfect world, and problems will always exist.  Are insects a threat to crops?  Yes, but that doesn’t mean that insects don’t serve a purpose as is the case with bees.  Without bees there are many crops that we wouldn’t have.  The solution to the problem presented by pesticides will not be an easy one to find, but if people inform themselves, and if people show that they are concerned then change is possible.


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About the Author

Dom resizeDominick Principe is a graduate of Rowan University with dual Bachelor Degrees in Elementary Education and Writing Arts.  He is a prolific reader who devours any book put before him, and feels that life is one great long book without an end.  He fills his hours constantly exploring new information, and seeking to educate himself in the ways of the world.  He puts all of that knowledge and his passion for learning to good use teaching English as a second language to students of all ages.  When his nose isn’t buried in a book, or in class teaching, then he can generally be found typing away at his computer working on some random piece of writing that he was inspired to do.


[i] “Learn About Chemicals Around Your House.” EPA. Environmental Protection Agency. Web. 30 Nov. 2014. <http://www.epa.gov/kidshometour/pest.htm&gt;.

[ii] “Learn About Chemicals Around Your House.” EPA. Environmental Protection Agency. Web. 30 Nov. 2014. <http://www.epa.gov/kidshometour/pest.htm&gt;.

[iii] Pesticides Use and Exposure Extensive Worldwide. Web. 30 Nov. 2014. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2946087/&gt;.

[iv] “Public Health Risks Associated with Pesticides and Natural Toxins in Foods.” Radcliffe’s IPM World Textbook. Web. 30 Nov. 2014. <http://ipmworld.umn.edu/chapters/pimentel.htm&gt;.

[v] “What Kinds of Health Effects Are Associated with Pesticides?” Pesticides. Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety. Web. 30 Nov. 2014. <http://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/chemicals/pesticides/health_effects.html&gt;.

[vi] “What Kinds of Health Effects Are Associated with Pesticides?” Pesticides. Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety. Web. 30 Nov. 2014. <http://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/chemicals/pesticides/health_effects.html&gt;.

[vii] “What Kinds of Health Effects Are Associated with Pesticides?” Pesticides. Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety. Web. 30 Nov. 2014. <http://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/chemicals/pesticides/health_effects.html&gt;.

[viii] “What Kinds of Health Effects Are Associated with Pesticides?” Pesticides. Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety. Web. 30 Nov. 2014. <http://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/chemicals/pesticides/health_effects.html&gt;.

[ix] “FAQs – Signs & Symptoms of Pesticide Poisoning.” FAQs – Signs & Symptoms of Pesticide Poisoning. Web. 30 Nov. 2014. <http://www.headlice.org/faq/treatments/signs-symptoms.htm&gt;.

[x] “Environmental Impacts.” Pesticide Action Network. Web. 30 Nov. 2014. <http://www.panna.org/issues/persistent-poisons/environmental-impacts&gt;.

[xi] “Atrazine Updates.” EPA. Environmental Protection Agency. Web. 30 Nov. 2014. <http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/reregistration/atrazine/atrazine_update.htm&gt;.

[xii] “Environmental Impacts.” Pesticide Action Network. Web. 30 Nov. 2014. <http://www.panna.org/issues/persistent-poisons/environmental-impacts&gt;.

[xiii] “Environmental Impacts.” Pesticide Action Network. Web. 30 Nov. 2014. <http://www.panna.org/issues/persistent-poisons/environmental-impacts&gt;.

[xiv] “UGA Today.” UGA Study Reveals Ecosystem-level Consequences of Frog Extinctions. Web. 30 Nov. 2014. <http://news.uga.edu/releases/article/uga-study-reveals-ecosystem-level-consequences-of-frog-extinctions/&gt;.

[xv] “Environmental Impacts.” Pesticide Action Network. Web. 30 Nov. 2014. <http://www.panna.org/issues/persistent-poisons/environmental-impacts&gt;.

[xvi] “Environmental Impacts.” Pesticide Action Network. Web. 30 Nov. 2014. <http://www.panna.org/issues/persistent-poisons/environmental-impacts&gt;.

[xvii] “Environmental Impacts.” Pesticide Action Network. Web. 30 Nov. 2014. <http://www.panna.org/issues/persistent-poisons/environmental-impacts&gt;.

[xviii] “List of Foods We Will Lose If We Don’t Save the Bees.” Natural Society. Web. 30 Nov. 2014. <http://naturalsociety.com/list-of-foods-we-will-lose-if-we-dont-save-the-bees/&gt;.

Understanding Pollution: Are We in Danger of Famine?

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When looking at history there is one thing that allowed mankind to stop their nomadic lifestyle, and begin to construct civilization as we know it.  That is agriculture.  A reliable and steady food supply has allowed us to construct cities, build wonders that will endure for centuries, and even reach for the stars themselves.  Without that consistent food supply man would never have experienced such a population boom that made us the dominant animal on this planet.  Yet despite the importance of agriculture to our successes, we are allowing our food supply to be placed in danger by pollution.  The most dangerous threats to our food supply come from air pollution, water pollution, and global warming.

polluted food supply 1

Air is everywhere, and thus whatever is in the air affects everything. One of the biggest dangers to agriculture from air pollution is ozone.  Ozone is the main component of smog that is created by the burning of fossil fuels.[i]  Ozone can have varying effects on agriculture.  To begin with ozone is absorbed by crops through the undersides of leaves, and cause a loss of color, molting, bronzing, and/or stunted growth of the plant.[ii]  Here’s where things get complicated.  Ozone can cause both visible injury to plants, and reduce the size of the crop as a whole, or it can cause no visible injury while still reducing the cop size, or visible injury but without reducing the crop size.[iii]  Ozone damage is simply one factor.  You must also consider the type of plant, and other environmental effects that are acting at a given time.  Another air pollutant dangerous to agriculture is fluoride.  Fluoride can be absorbed by plants through the tips of their leaves, but that is not where damage is visible.  The damage is done to the youngest leaves on the plant, and it can drastically effect the size of the plant.[iv]  Needless to say, there are entirely too many air pollutants to list all of them, and their effects on every type of agricultural crop out there.  As long as the air that humans, plants, and other animals rely on is polluted there will continue to be a growing number of consequences.

polluted food supply 2

Water is vital to every organism on this planet.  It should come as no surprise to anyone that water affects agriculture from the time a seed is planted until it enters our mouths.  Fruits and vegetables come into contact with water throughout their, for lack of a better word, lives.  To begin with irrigation is used to water crops as they are grown.  If the water used in irrigation is contaminated then that contaminant is being absorbed by the crops along with the water.  Fresh water can be contaminated by heavy metals, dirt and rocks, chemicals, and industrial pollutants.  Some of the heavy metals that are commonly found in fresh water are arsenic, cadmium, chromium, copper, nickel, lead and mercury.[v]  I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sure I don’t want to eat anything that has absorbed lead, which has been linked to neurological impairment in children, let alone all of the other chemicals.[vi]  Just a few more examples are Cadmium which weakens your bones, can cause kidney damage, and even lead to death in high enough levels.[vii]  Then there is arsenic which has been linked to several forms of cancer.[viii]  Aside from metals you also have different chemicals that are either dumped into water, or found there naturally.  Think of the pesticides that are used on lawns, and then carried off into the nearest water supply when it rains, or the chemicals that people use to wash their cars.  Then think about the chemicals from industrial plants, runoff water from manure, and runoff from septic systems.[ix]  All of those chemicals end up in our water supply.  Water is connected to literally everything, and because of that literally anything can find its way into our water supply which then goes on to water the crops upon which we rely for food.

polluted food supply 3

There is another effect that pollution is causing that is effecting our water supply, and that is global warming.  I won’t go fully into the whys and wherefores of global warming here, as that has been covered in another article, but global warming’s effect on agriculture must be mentioned.  As mentioned earlier crop growth relies upon a variety of factors in order to produce the optimal sized crop, and one of the most important factors is the weather.  Global warming is beginning to alter weather patterns around the globe.[x]  Since certain crops do better in different environments if the weather of that environment changes it will have an impact on the crops grown there.  Desertification is the most obviously severe examples of this.  Desertification is occurring as global warming is drying up water supplies, and literally turning once arable land into deserts.[xi]  This is obviously effecting what can and cannot be grown in a given area, since many crops cannot be grown in a desert environment. Another problem is that the majority of Americans are predominantly meat eaters, and a significantly larger area is required to raise crops that feed the livestock used for food. It is estimated that about 800 million people in the US could be fed with the grain required to feed the animals we eventually eat.[xii] That is only the most extreme example, and while it is true that some crops will be able to adapt to changing climate, it is estimated that by the middle of the century most crops will have reached their capacity for adaptation.[xiii]  What that means is that although we shouldn’t have to worry about our food supply too much for the next fifty years, we might have some serious problems in a few decades.  For those of us who are under thirty that means that we will definitely run into problems at the latest by the time we’re ready to retire.  Do you really want to spend your retirement worrying about if you’ll have enough food?  I don’t, which means that something must be done now to ensure that doesn’t happen.

Agriculture is probably one of the greatest innovations that ever happened to the human race.  It allowed us to move out of our nomadic lifestyle and to develop science, art, music, philosophy, literature, and other technologies and forms of leisure because we didn’t have to worry about literally running down enough food to keep us from starvation.  For the past couple millennia we have relied upon agriculture to allow us to explore the world around us, as well as our own minds, and other planets.  Can we really allow the advancements of the new generations turn our food from nourishment and medicine into poison?  I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I could run down a gazelle for its meat, and while picking berries can be fun, I would need a lot of berries to feed my family.  Plus, if technology continues to advance and feed pollution, will the berries be safe to eat and will there even be gazelles left?  We have to do something if we are to continue to enjoy living the lives that we want.


If you liked this article and would like to receive more, be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter.


About the Author

Dom resizeDominick Principe is a graduate of Rowan University with dual Bachelor Degrees in Elementary Education and Writing Arts.  He is a prolific reader who devours any book put before him, and feels that life is one great long book without an end.  He fills his hours constantly exploring new information, and seeking to educate himself in the ways of the world.  He puts all of that knowledge and his passion for learning to good use teaching English as a second language to students of all ages.  When his nose isn’t buried in a book, or in class teaching, then he can generally be found typing away at his computer working on some random piece of writing that he was inspired to do.


[i] “Effects of Air Pollution on Agricultural Crops.” Effects of Air Pollution on Agricultural Crops. Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs. Web. 14 Nov. 2014. <http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/crops/facts/01-015.htm&gt;.

[ii] “The Effects of Air Pollution on Agricultural Crops.” Home Guides. San Francisco Gate. Web. 14 Nov. 2014. <http://homeguides.sfgate.com/effects-air-pollution-agricultural-crops-79226.html&gt;.

[iii] “The Effects of Air Pollution on Agricultural Crops.” Home Guides. San Francisco Gate. Web. 14 Nov. 2014. <http://homeguides.sfgate.com/effects-air-pollution-agricultural-crops-79226.html&gt;.

[iv] “Effects of Air Pollution on Agricultural Crops.” Effects of Air Pollution on Agricultural Crops. Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs. Web. 14 Nov. 2014. <http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/crops/facts/01-015.htm&gt;.

[v] “Metals in Aquatic Freshwater.” Metals Occuring in Aquatic Freshwater. Web. 14 Nov. 2014. <http://www.lenntech.com/aquatic/metals.htm&gt;.

[vi] “Human Health and Lead.” EPA. Environmental Protection Agency. Web. 14 Nov. 2014. <http://www.epa.gov/superfund/lead/health.htm&gt;.

[vii] “Department of Medicine.” Cadmium Toxicity. NYU Langone Medical Center. Web. 2 Dec. 2014. <http://medicine.med.nyu.edu/conditions-we-treat/conditions/cadmium-toxicity&gt;.

[viii] “Arsenic.” Arsenic. Web. 2 Dec. 2014. <http://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancercauses/othercarcinogens/intheworkplace/arsenic&gt;.

[ix] “Pollutants » Explore More: Water Quality.” Pollutants » Explore More: Water Quality. Web. 14 Nov. 2014. <http://www.iptv.org/exploremore/water/pollutants/pollutants.cfm&gt;.

[x] “Effects of Climate Change on Agriculture | Climate Education Modules for K-12.” Effects of Climate Change on Agriculture | Climate Education Modules for K-12. Web. 14 Nov. 2014. <http://www.nc-climate.ncsu.edu/edu/k12/ClimateChange-Ag&gt;.

[xi] “Desertification.” World Preservation Foundation. World Preservation Foundation. Web. 14 Nov. 2014. <http://www.worldpreservationfoundation.org/topic.php?cat=climateChange&vid=23#.VGYlPfmUdg8&gt;.

[xii] “U.S. Could Feed 800 Million People with Grain That Livestock Eat, Cornell Ecologist Advises Animal Scientists | Cornell Chronicle.” U.S. Could Feed 800 Million People with Grain That Livestock Eat, Cornell Ecologist Advises Animal Scientists | Cornell Chronicle. Web. 19 Nov. 2014. <http://www.news.cornell.edu/stories/1997/08/us-could-feed-800-million-people-grain-livestock-eat&gt;.

[xiii] “Report: Climate Change Could Devastate Agriculture.” USA Today. USA Today. Web. 14 Nov. 2014. <http://www.usdahttp://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/02/05/climate-change-agriculture-study/1893455/.gov/oce/climate_change/effects_2012/CC and Agriculture Report (02-04-2013)b.pdf>.

Understanding Pollution: What We Should Know about Methane

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Methane is a colorless, and odorless gas that is commonly used, but is dangerous to both man and the environment.[i]  It is used commonly as a source of fuel, or to power lights.[ii]  Additionally, methane is used in the manufacture of organic chemicals.[iii]  So, needless to say, methane is a well-known, and well used substance in our world today.  But, with the sweet there must be the bitter.  Methane can have severe effects on human health, and its impact on the environment cannot be ignored.  Also, the sources of methane might surprise you; they did me.

Methane 1

Since it is a naturally occurring gas methane comes from a number of sources both manmade and natural.  The main man made sources of methane include fossil fuel production and livestock farming.[iv]  Fossil fuel production creates 110 million tons of methane a year, and accounts for 1/3 of all manmade methane emissions.[v]  In fact, natural gas, which many people use to heat their homes, is mostly made up of methane.[vi]  The other big manmade source is livestock farming.  Animals like cows, sheep, and pigs fart, and fart a lot.  When they fart they release methane.[vii]  Now, you may be laughing, but understand that the methane from livestock also accounts for about 1/3 of manmade methane emissions.[viii]  That’s a lot of gas.  Moving on, let’s look at some of the natural sources.  Natural sources of methane include wetlands, termites, and the volcanoes of our world.[ix]  Every day, a termite produces 1 microgram of methane, which isn’t much, but if you add up all the methane produced by every termite on the planet you are looking at 20 million tons of methane annually.[x]  That’s a fairly large amount of methane, and a huge number of termites!  We then move onto wetlands where chemicals reactions occur naturally, and account for roughly 1/3 of all methane release worldwide.[xi]

As mentioned previously, methane is a colorless and odorless gas, or a liquid if put under pressure.[xii]  Because of this, it is very difficult to know if you are being exposed to methane, until you are already suffering from its effects.  Methane replaces oxygen in the air, and the body inhales it just like oxygen.[xiii]  This can cause an increased breathing rate, an increased heart rate, loss of coordination, and can have an effect on what emotions we experience.[xiv]  These are just the early effects of methane exposure, and if you experience them you need to leave wherever you are and find fresh air as quickly as possible.  If your exposure continues for too long you will begin to experience nausea, vomiting, the possibility of collapsing, convulsions, falling into a coma, and finally death.[xv]  Needless to say methane is no joke.  Another issue with methane is that it is highly, highly flammable.  Leaking methane gas can cover a fair distance, and if exposed to any heat source or open flame will ignite all the way back to where it is leaking.[xvi]  That’s methane in its more common gas form, but its liquid form has its own hazards.  Liquid methane is also highly flammable, and if your skin is exposed to liquid methane it will cause frostbite, and even has the potential to completely freeze your eyeballs if somehow your eyes come into contact with it.[xvii]

Methane 2

Like carbon dioxide with which it shares so many traits, methane is a greenhouse gas.[xviii]  What does that mean?  Well, it means that methane that is released into the air travels into the atmosphere, and once there it traps the heat coming from the sun.[xix]  Methane does not remain in the atmosphere for as long as other greenhouse gases, but it is much more effective at trapping the sun’s heat than other gases.  Compared to carbon dioxide, which is the gas that most people mention when talking about greenhouse gases, methane is 84% better at trapping heat from the sun in the atmosphere, and it is estimated that methane accounts for 25% of manmade global warming.[xx]  That is methane’s effect on a global scale.  Locally, as mentioned earlier, methane is highly flammable.  Methane fires can occur in mines, over landfills, and wetlands if exposed to even a single spark.[xxi]  In fact, in September of 2013, 37 families were forced to evacuate their homes due to a leak from a methane gas line, and fire companies were forced to be on standby for days, such is the danger of a methane fire.[xxii]

So, we’ve discussed some of the sources of methane, its health hazards, and its effects on the environment, but you may be asking yourself what you should take away from all of this.  I mean, methane is used by 61% of all household in the United States for heat.[xxiii]  That’s a lot of people who are not going to want to give up their heat just because they read an article that explains a little about methane.  Still, knowledge is power.  By learning about what you are using you are aware that what you do has benefits and consequences.  Ultimately, it is up to every individual to decide for themselves if the benefits out way the consequences, and vice versa.  That’s what life is.  Making well informed choices with the understanding that what you do will echo down in some way shape or form throughout history.  Should we stop using methane gas all together, and get rid of every cow, sheep, and pig farm in the world?  Probably not, but you could think twice before ordering that steak at dinner.  By being aware that a problem exists a solution can be found.


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About the Author

Dom resizeDominick Principe is a graduate of Rowan University with dual Bachelor Degrees in Elementary Education and Writing Arts.  He is a prolific reader who devours any book put before him, and feels that life is one great long book without an end.  He fills his hours constantly exploring new information, and seeking to educate himself in the ways of the world.  He puts all of that knowledge and his passion for learning to good use teaching English as a second language to students of all ages.  When his nose isn’t buried in a book, or in class teaching, then he can generally be found typing away at his computer working on some random piece of writing that he was inspired to do.


[i] “Hazardous Substance Fact Sheet: Methane.” New Jersey Health Department. New Jersey Health Department. Web. 1 Dec. 2014. <http://nj.gov/health/eoh/rtkweb/documents/fs/1202.pdf&gt;.

[ii] “Chemical Fact Sheets–Methane.” Chemical Fact Sheets–Methane. Web. 1 Dec. 2014. <http://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/eh/chemfs/fs/Methane.htm&gt;.

[iii] “Chemical Fact Sheets–Methane.” Chemical Fact Sheets–Methane. Web. 1 Dec. 2014. <http://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/eh/chemfs/fs/Methane.htm&gt;.

[iv] “What Are the Main Sources of Methane Emissions?” What’s Your Impact. Web. 1 Dec. 2014. <http://whatsyourimpact.org/greenhouse-gases/methane-sources&gt;.

[v] “What Are the Main Sources of Methane Emissions?” What’s Your Impact. Web. 1 Dec. 2014. <http://whatsyourimpact.org/greenhouse-gases/methane-sources&gt;.

[vi] “What Are the Main Sources of Methane Emissions?” What’s Your Impact. Web. 1 Dec. 2014. <http://whatsyourimpact.org/greenhouse-gases/methane-sources&gt;.

[vii] “What Are the Main Sources of Methane Emissions?” What’s Your Impact. Web. 1 Dec. 2014. <http://whatsyourimpact.org/greenhouse-gases/methane-sources&gt;.

[viii] “What Are the Main Sources of Methane Emissions?” What’s Your Impact. Web. 1 Dec. 2014. <http://whatsyourimpact.org/greenhouse-gases/methane-sources&gt;.

[ix] “What Are the Main Sources of Methane Emissions?” What’s Your Impact. Web. 1 Dec. 2014. <http://whatsyourimpact.org/greenhouse-gases/methane-sources&gt;.

[x] “GreenHouse Gas Online – Greenhouse Gas News, Research and Resources.” GreenHouse Gas Online – Greenhouse Gas News, Research and Resources. Web. 1 Dec. 2014. <http://www.ghgonline.org/methanetermite.htm&gt;.

[xi] “Methane Emission from Natural Wetlands: Interplay between Emergent Macrophytes and Soil Microbial Processes. A Mini-review.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. U.S. National Library of Medicine. Web. 1 Dec. 2014. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19689973&gt;.

[xii] “Hazardous Substance Fact Sheet: Methane.” New Jersey Health Department. New Jersey Health Department. Web. 1 Dec. 2014. <http://nj.gov/health/eoh/rtkweb/documents/fs/1202.pdf&gt;.

[xiii] “Common Menu Bar Links.” Methane : OSH Answers. Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety. Web. 1 Dec. 2014. <http://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/chemicals/chem_profiles/methane.html&gt;.

[xiv] “Common Menu Bar Links.” Methane : OSH Answers. Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety. Web. 1 Dec. 2014. <http://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/chemicals/chem_profiles/methane.html&gt;.

[xv] “Common Menu Bar Links.” Methane : OSH Answers. Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety. Web. 1 Dec. 2014. <http://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/chemicals/chem_profiles/methane.html&gt;.

[xvi] “Common Menu Bar Links.” Methane : OSH Answers. Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety. Web. 1 Dec. 2014. <http://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/chemicals/chem_profiles/methane.html&gt;.

[xvii] “Common Menu Bar Links.” Methane : OSH Answers. Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety. Web. 1 Dec. 2014. <http://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/chemicals/chem_profiles/methane.html&gt;.

[xviii] “Ocean News | Issue 7 | Climate Change.” Ocean News | Issue 7 | Climate Change. Web. 1 Dec. 2014. <http://oceanlink.info/ONews/ONews7/methane.html&gt;.

[xix] “Methane: The Other Important Greenhouse Gas.” Environmental Defense Fund. Environmental Defense Fund. Web. 1 Dec. 2014. <http://www.edf.org/climate/methane&gt;.

[xx] “Methane: The Other Important Greenhouse Gas.” Environmental Defense Fund. Environmental Defense Fund. Web. 1 Dec. 2014. <http://www.edf.org/climate/methane&gt;.

[xxi] “Methane.” Pollutant Fact Sheet. Scottish Environment Protection Agency. Web. 1 Dec. 2014. <http://apps.sepa.org.uk/spripa/Pages/SubstanceInformation.aspx?pid=65&gt;.

[xxii] “Hawthorne Methane Leak Forces Evacuation of 37 Families for Third Night.” Hawthorne Methane Leak Forces Evacuation of 37 Families for Third Night. The Daily Breeze. Web. 1 Dec. 2014. <http://www.dailybreeze.com/general-news/20130916/hawthorne-methane-leak-forces-evacuation-of-37-families-for-third-night&gt;.

[xxiii] “What Percentage of Homes in the U.S. Use Natural Gas?” FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS. U.S. Energy Information Administration. Web. 1 Dec. 2014. <http://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.cfm?id=49&t=8&gt;.

Understanding Pollution: Why We Should Not Ignore Radiation

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For some macabre reason, man has always had a fascination with his own death, and thus it should come as no surprise that something that has the power to destroy all life on this planet so fascinates us.  On April 26, 1986 the Chernobyl nuclear power plant had a fatal meltdown which caused a massive explosion, and fires that lasted for days sending a cloud of radiation over Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, and onto other parts of Europe.[i]  Only two people died that first night, but over the next few weeks, 28 people would lose their lives due to radiation poisoning.[ii]  The Soviet Union, one of the greatest powers in the world at the time, did not begin to respond for a full 24 hours because they could not understand the magnitude of what had happened, and once they did they ordered the full evacuation of the town of Pripyat, which had supported the plant.[iii]  Once the evacuation order was given, in less than three hours a bustling town of 50000 people became a ghost town.[iv]  While the death toll from Chernobyl has been exaggerated over the years, it is estimated that less than 50 people died from causes directly linked to Chernobyl’s explosion, but since then the rate of thyroid cancer in the region among children has spiked to over 7000.[v]  Other cancers have also been more common in the area since 1986, but scientists cannot directly link them to radiation exposure.  It has been 28 years since the Chernobyl disaster, and entry into a 30km area around the plant still requires permission from the Ukrainian government, and a full body scan to check for radiation before leaving.[vi] If the words Radioactive Contamination fill you with dread, congratulations, you are an intelligent human being.  Radioactive contamination is when radioactive materials enter the environment, and other areas where they shouldn’t be.[vii]  Pollution from radioactive materials can have massive detrimental effects on human health and the environment; the most extreme of which is arguably death, but the diseases that can be contracted due to radiation poisoning may be worse.  Pollution from radioactive materials comes from a variety of sources, and many of them are manmade.

radioactive fallout 2

Radiation sickness is one of the most severe health effects of exposure to radiation.  Radiation poisoning occurs from excessive exposure to ionizing radiation.[viii]  Early signs of radiation poisoning include nausea, vomiting, and spontaneous bleeding from the nose, mouth, and rectum.[ix] Other symptoms include an extreme reddening of the skin exposed to radiation, hair loss, and extreme fatigue.[x]  The greatest danger of radiation lies in its effects on our immune systems and our very DNA.  Radiation kills the white blood cells in our blood, which are our main defense against infections, viruses, and other diseases.[xi]  As mentioned earlier, exposure to radiation also leads to an increased risk of different types of cancer.  We know this because between 1945 and 1962 countries were testing nuclear weapons in the open air, and this lead to an increase in cancer in areas where tests were conducted, and in fact the United States government admitted their fault and provided financial recompense to people who were affected by those tests.[xii]  Ultimately, the more radiation that you are exposed to the more severe the problems that you will experience.  High levels of radiation lead to radiation poisoning, and death.  Lower doses increase your risk of acquiring cancer. Radiation has also been linked to the possibility of genetic mutation in both humans exposed to radiation and their offspring.[xiii]

radioactive fallout 1

The effects of radioactive contamination on the environment are also severe.  For example, in the days immediately after the Chernobyl incident all of the pine trees in the surrounding area died.[xiv]  Needless to say, scientists have been examining the effects of radiation on wildlife at Chernobyl for years, and since the disaster at Fukushima, you know where another nuclear power plant had a meltdown, they have also been examining wildlife in Japan.  What they have found is that unless the radiation dosage is high enough to instantly kill different animals it can take years to see effects that are taking place.[xv]  They have also discovered that birds in the region have smaller brains than normal, and are developing eye cataracts, and that insects in the area are behaving abnormally.[xvi]  Then there’s the fact that if soil is contaminated with radiation, anything that grows in that soil is contaminated as well.  President Franklin Roosevelt once said “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”  While the meaning behind that statement is something that everyone should take to heart, I would counter and say that not knowing what effects radiation is having on marine and land wildlife upon which we rely for food is something worth at least worrying about.  Should we consider doing something as dangerous as relying on nuclear power with the danger of unknown effects of nuclear contamination?  I am wise enough to know I’m not wise enough to answer that question.

radioactive fallout 3

There are many sources of radiation in our daily lives.  Some are simple things that we probably use every day, and don’t even think about the fact that they produce radiation.

“Ionizing radiation becomes pollution if it fills a particular environment with high-levels of electromagnetically charged particles or ions. The effects of ionized particles in the human body depend on how far or near the human is to the Electro Magnetic Field source. A person who accidentally touches the electric energy power of an open electrical wire receives a surge of electric current in his body called electric shock, because he touched the nearest source.  In a state of pollution, we receive these electromagnetic shocks in low frequency doses as they are released in the environment”[xvii]  Sources of radiation can range from cell phones and home appliances to nuclear weapons testing and experimental research.[xviii]  While it is true that the radiation coming off of a cell phone is much, much smaller than that coming from a nuclear power plant still the radiation is there, and we sleep, eat, walk, drive, and do everything else in our daily lives with our cell phones glued to us.  Thus exposing ourselves to radiation 24/7.  We are in contact with radiation every day of our lives.

Man has a fascination with radiation.  Countless books, movies, and video games have been created over what might happen if a radioactive event occurred that truly altered the world.  On one hand we should be proud that we were the species smart enough to be able to split the atom and harness the power of radiation for our own ends.  On the other, we need to consider the costs, both present and future, of that power.  While people may love playing games like Fallout, or Metro 2033, do we really want to one day live in a radioactive wasteland?


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About the Author

Dom resizeDominick Principe is a graduate of Rowan University with dual Bachelor Degrees in Elementary Education and Writing Arts.  He is a prolific reader who devours any book put before him, and feels that life is one great long book without an end.  He fills his hours constantly exploring new information, and seeking to educate himself in the ways of the world.  He puts all of that knowledge and his passion for learning to good use teaching English as a second language to students of all ages.  When his nose isn’t buried in a book, or in class teaching, then he can generally be found typing away at his computer working on some random piece of writing that he was inspired to do.


[i] “Chernobyl Then and Now: 28 Haunting Images from Nuclear Disaster.” – RT News. Russia Today. Web. 17 Nov. 2014. <http://rt.com/news/155072-chernobyl-images-now-then/&gt;.

[ii] “Chernobyl Accident 1986.” Chernobyl. Web. 17 Nov. 2014. <http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/Safety-and-Security/Safety-of-Plants/Chernobyl-Accident/&gt;.

[iii] “Chernobyl Then and Now: 28 Haunting Images from Nuclear Disaster.” – RT News. Russia Today. Web. 17 Nov. 2014. <http://rt.com/news/155072-chernobyl-images-now-then/&gt;.

[iv] “Chernobyl Then and Now: 28 Haunting Images from Nuclear Disaster.” – RT News. Russia Today. Web. 17 Nov. 2014. <http://rt.com/news/155072-chernobyl-images-now-then/&gt;.

[v] “How Many People Have Been Killed by Chernobyl?” Slate Magazine. Web. 17 Nov. 2014. <http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/explainer/2013/04/chernobyl_death_toll_how_many_cancer_cases_are_caused_by_low_level_radiation.html&gt;.

[vi] “Ben Lovejoy.” Ben Lovejoy. Web. 17 Nov. 2014. <http://www.benlovejoy.com/journeys/chernobyl/exclusion/&gt;.

[vii] “What Is Radioactive Pollution?” What Is Radioactive Pollution? Web. 17 Nov. 2014. <http://www.thebigger.com/biology/pollution/what-is-radioactive-pollution/&gt;.

[viii] “Radiation Sickness: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia.” U.S National Library of Medicine. U.S. National Library of Medicine. Web. 17 Nov. 2014. <http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000026.htm&gt;.

[ix] “Radiation Sickness: 8 Terrifying Symptoms.” CBSNews. CBS Interactive. Web. 17 Nov. 2014. <http://www.cbsnews.com/pictures/radiation-sickness-8-terrifying-symptoms/&gt;.

[x] “Radiation Sickness: 8 Terrifying Symptoms.” CBSNews. CBS Interactive. Web. 17 Nov. 2014. <http://www.cbsnews.com/pictures/radiation-sickness-8-terrifying-symptoms/&gt;.

[xi] “Radiation Sickness.” Symptoms. Web. 17 Nov. 2014. <http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/radiation-sickness/basics/symptoms/con-20022901&gt;.

[xii] “Radiation Exposure and Cancer.” Radiation Exposure and Cancer. Web. 17 Nov. 2014. <http://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancercauses/radiationexposureandcancer/index&gt;.

[xiii] “The Genetic Effects of Radiation.” United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation. Web. 17 Nov. 2014. <http://www.unscear.org/docs/reports/1958, 13th session (Suppl. No.17)/1958final-4_unscear.pdf>.

[xiv] “Some Birds Adapt to Chernobyl’s Radiation.” Science News. Web. 2 Dec. 2014. <https://www.sciencenews.org/blog/wild-things/some-birds-adapt-chernobyl’s-radiation&gt;.

[xv] “Will Fukushima Mutate Sea Life? : DNews.” DNews. Web. 17 Nov. 2014. <http://news.discovery.com/earth/oceans/will-fukushima-mutate-sea-life-130828.htm&gt;.

[xvi] “Some Birds Adapt to Chernobyl’s Radiation.” Science News. Web. 19 Nov. 2014. <https://www.sciencenews.org/blog/wild-things/some-birds-adapt-chernobyl’s-radiation&gt;.

[xvii] “Radiation Pollution: What Are the Sources and Remedies?” Bright Hub. Web. 17 Nov. 2014. <http://www.brighthub.com/environment/science-environmental/articles/91518.aspx&gt;.

[xviii] “Radiation Pollution: What Are the Sources and Remedies?” Bright Hub. Web. 17 Nov. 2014. <http://www.brighthub.com/environment/science-environmental/articles/91518.aspx&gt;.

Understanding Pollution: Leaking Facts about Leaking Oil Pipelines

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Recently, there has been a great deal of attention paid in the media to oil pipelines, most specifically the Keystone XL Pipeline which is a pipeline that, if built, will travel from Canada’s tar sand fields all the way across the United States to the Gulf of Texas.[i]  Oil pipelines crisscross the United States, and truthfully, most other countries.  Oil is the preferred fuel, and energy source of the world in our time.  Most of the pipelines are not visible.  They’re underground so that people don’t see them, and they’re out of the way.  Why?  Because oil pipelines have a few problems.  The biggest is:  They can burst.

 Oil Pipelines 1

Pipelines are a fast way of transporting massive amounts of oil and natural gas from one place to another, and they are constructed underground so that they are not seen by us every day.   There is another thing that is being hidden from us, and that is the number of pipelines that are leaking or rupturing.  In 2012 and 2013 in North Dakota there were close to 300 oil pipelines incidents that occurred, and were not reported to the public by the state government.[ii]  The effects of oil spills are difficult enough to deal with when people know, and are able to help clean up.  The fact that the state government is covering up the spills just exacerbates the problem.  Oil pipelines cause the soil that they lie in to erode, and also contaminate the soil making it difficult, if not impossible, for plant life to grow let alone flourish there.[iii]  Then there is the risk that any spill or leak can have on ground water, which quenches the thirst of both human and animal alike.[iv]  In 2010 a pipeline ruptured and spilled over 800,000 gallons of tar sands into the Kalamazoo River.[v]  That was four years ago, and in some parts of the river it is still possible to pull up clumps of oil from the bottom of the river.[vi]  Think about that for one moment.  An oil pipeline ruptured four years ago, and there is still oil in the river.  Would you want to drink that water?  I wouldn’t.  Already, the cleanup has cost almost $1 billion, and it is still on going.[vii]  Think of what could have been done to help the economy with an additional 1 billion dollar investment, and then consider that instead that money is being spent trying to clean up one giant mess.

When another pipeline burst near Salt Lake City and dumped over 30000 gallons into a river one morning in 2010, the fumes had such an effect on the residents of the town who breathed the fumes in their sleep that they did not wake up until almost noon.[viii]  Residents of every town that has been exposed to oil from broken pipelines complain of nausea, headaches, and difficulty breathing.[ix]  Something that is truly disconcerting is that there are no federal guidelines as to whether towns should be evacuated for health reasons related to oil spills which leads to some towns evacuated, and some sitting in oil literally![x]  What is truly worrying is that recently an oil pipeline company claimed that there were positive effects of pipelines such as money brought into the local economy due to the cleanup.[xi]  Now, I’m all for helping the economy, but do we really want to rely on disasters to be our boost?

Oil Pipelines 2

Oil pipelines bring in a massive amount of money and capital into the economy.  In 2013 oil pipeline operator companies earned almost $7 billion in revenue.[xii]  No one can deny that that is money that will benefit the United States as we seek to gain energy independence.  However, we must consider the costs that we pay in order to earn such a large economic benefit.  The first thing to consider is what is known as Eminent Domain.  This is the ability that the government has to seize private property in order to build structures for the public good, or to allow private enterprise to build, and the only requirements private enterprise faces in seizing that land is that it must appear to be for the greater good of the public as a whole, and “fair” compensation must be paid to the landowner.[xiii]  As you can imagine, this is a bit of a controversial issue.  No one wants to be told that they must give up their property, especially if that property has been in the family for generations.  Going back to oil pipelines, what truly concerns me is that foreign corporations can exercise eminent domain as well.  The Keystone XL pipeline is meeting fierce resistance from many landowners whose land the proposed pipeline will cross.  Many are left without recourse except to go to court to try and defend their property rights, and sadly, they are losing.[xiv]

Ultimately, oil pipelines will remain a serious topic of debate for years to come unless a serious shift is made into renewable or alternate energy.  That means that we will continue to deal with pipelines bursting, and possibly not being told about it, water and soil being contaminated, and our health being affected just to keep the oil flowing.  There is a saying in Frank Herbert’s book Dune:  “The spice must flow.”  Spice was the lifeblood of the interstellar economy in Dune, and we have allowed oil to take that place in our world.  Allowed being the key word in the previous sentence.  We actually do have a choice in how we acquire our energy.  Other options are wind, solar, and water generated power.  It is just that many people do not wish to take the time to let our governments know that we must to preserve the world in which we live, and find alternatives to oil which has such harmful effects.


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About the Author

Dom resizeDominick Principe is a graduate of Rowan University with dual Bachelor Degrees in Elementary Education and Writing Arts.  He is a prolific reader who devours any book put before him, and feels that life is one great long book without an end.  He fills his hours constantly exploring new information, and seeking to educate himself in the ways of the world.  He puts all of that knowledge and his passion for learning to good use teaching English as a second language to students of all ages.  When his nose isn’t buried in a book, or in class teaching, then he can generally be found typing away at his computer working on some random piece of writing that he was inspired to do.


[i] “What Is the Keystone XL Pipeline?” Texas RSS. Web. 2 Dec. 2014. <http://stateimpact.npr.org/texas/tag/keystone-xl-pipeline/&gt;.

[ii] “North Dakota Recorded 300 Oil Spills in Two Years without Notifying the Public.”Theguardian.com. The Guardian. Web. 24 Nov. 2014. <http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/oct/25/north-dakota-oil-pipeline-spills-secrecy&gt;.

[iii] “Current Publications: Agriculture, Environment and Natural Resources.” : Pipelines: Environmental Considerations (2012-37-E). Web. 24 Nov. 2014. <http://www.parl.gc.ca/Content/LOP/ResearchPublications/2012-37-e.htm#a4&gt;.

[iv] “Current Publications: Agriculture, Environment and Natural Resources.” : Pipelines: Environmental Considerations (2012-37-E). Web. 24 Nov. 2014. <http://www.parl.gc.ca/Content/LOP/ResearchPublications/2012-37-e.htm#a4&gt;.

[v] “The Environment Report: Enbridge Oil Spill.” The Environment Report: Enbridge Oil Spill. Web. 24 Nov. 2014. <http://environmentreport.org/enbridge_oil_spill.php&gt;.

[vi] “Three Years after Oil Spill, a Slow Recovery Haunts Kalamazoo River.” Detroit Free Press. Web. 24 Nov. 2014. <http://archive.freep.com/article/20130623/NEWS06/306230059/Kalamazoo-River-oil-spill&gt;.

[vii] “Three Years after Oil Spill, a Slow Recovery Haunts Kalamazoo River.” Detroit Free Press. Web. 24 Nov. 2014. <http://archive.freep.com/article/20130623/NEWS06/306230059/Kalamazoo-River-oil-spill&gt;.

[viii] “Visit Our News Center for Expert Coverage of the Exxon Oil Spill in Arkansas.” What Sickens People in Oil Spills, and How Badly, Is Anybody’s Guess. Web. 24 Nov. 2014. <http://insideclimatenews.org/news/20130618/what-sickens-people-oil-spills-and-how-badly-anybodys-guess&gt;.

[ix] “Visit Our News Center for Expert Coverage of the Exxon Oil Spill in Arkansas.” What Sickens People in Oil Spills, and How Badly, Is Anybody’s Guess. Web. 24 Nov. 2014. <http://insideclimatenews.org/news/20130618/what-sickens-people-oil-spills-and-how-badly-anybodys-guess&gt;.

[x] “Visit Our News Center for Expert Coverage of the Exxon Oil Spill in Arkansas.” What Sickens People in Oil Spills, and How Badly, Is Anybody’s Guess. Web. 24 Nov. 2014. <http://insideclimatenews.org/news/20130618/what-sickens-people-oil-spills-and-how-badly-anybodys-guess&gt;.

[xi] Benen, Steve. “Oil Company Claims Oil Spills Can Have ‘positive Effects'” Msnbc.com. NBC News Digital, 6 May 2014. Web. 24 Nov. 2014. <http://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show/oil-company-claims-oil-spills-can-have&gt;.

[xii] “Crude Oil Pipeline Growth, Revenues Surge; Construction Costs Mount.” Login to Access the Oil & Gas Journal Subscriber Premium Features. Web. 24 Nov. 2014. <http://www.ogj.com/articles/print/volume-112/issue-9/special-report-pipeline-economics/crude-oil-pipeline-growth-revenues-surge-construction-costs-mount.html&gt;.

[xiii] “Eminent Domain.” Legal Dictionary. Com. The Free Dictionary. Web. 24 Nov. 2014. <http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/eminent domain>.

[xiv] “Eminent Domain: Being Abused?” CBSNews. CBS Interactive. Web. 24 Nov. 2014. <http://www.cbsnews.com/news/eminent-domain-being-abused/&gt;.

Understanding Pollution: The Dangers of Fracking

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Recently, there has been a great deal of talk about the benefits and dangers of a process known as “fracking.”  If, like me, you aren’t entirely sure what means then, no worries.  I decided to find out.  Fracking, or as it is officially known hydraulic fracturing, is a process where water and chemicals are pumped into the ground at extremely high pressures in order to break up deposits of shale so that the shale can be extracted as natural gas or oil.[i]  Sounds innovative, but what are the costs associated with such an undertaking?

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To begin with, fracturing requires a ton of water.  All in all, there are 500,000 active gas wells in the United States, and each gas well requires roughly 8 million gallons of water per fracking attempt, and a well can be fracked about 18 times before it is finished.  That equals a total of 72 trillion gallons of water used for the fracking industry.[ii]  72 trillion gallons of water that cannot then be used for drinking water, irrigation, or most other uses.  Why?  Because of the chemicals that are mixed in with the water in order to break up the shale.  Chemicals like hydrochloric and boric acid, which are acids which means they aren’t the safest chemicals on the planet, and definitely not something I want in my water.[iii]  Just for those who don’t know, hydrochloric acid is used in the production of chlorides, fertilizers, and dyes, and is corrosive to the eyes, skin, and mucous membrane, esophagus, and stomachs of humans.[iv]  Altogether, it is estimated that six hundred different chemicals are used in the hydraulic fracturing process.[v]  Those chemicals, sadly, do not stay where they are supposed to.  Concentrations of Methane gas are 17 times higher in ground water near fracking wells, than the rest of the country, and there have been 1000 documented cases of water contamination near fracking sites.[vi]  The worst part is that the chemicals used in fracking are not all recovered.  Recent reports have revealed that up to 80% of these chemicals are left underground after the completion of the fracking process.[vii]

Another concern of fracking is the different health effects that can occur from exposure to all of the chemicals used.  An article written in 2011 found that 75% of the chemicals used in fracking could have effects on human skin, eyes, and our other sensory organs, and that 50% of the chemicals used could affect our immune, cardiovascular, and nervous systems.[viii]  So, to sum up only 50% of the chemicals used in fracking can affect our immune system, which keeps us healthy, our cardiovascular system, which transports oxygen through our blood, and our nervous system which is our brain!  While the Environmental Protection Agency is still continuing its review of the effects of fracking, that is not stopping those who live near fracking wells from reporting increased health problems with almost 40% of those living within a kilometer of a fracking well reporting upper respiratory problems.[ix]  Because fracking is only about ten years old, there has not been enough time to discover the long term effects of it on human health or the environment, and while the EPA is preparing a report, and has been for three years, fracking still continues.  Some towns have even taken the situation into their own hands with the town of Denton Texas banning fracking in their town on November 04 2014.[x]  While there is no doubt that both the fracking industry, and possibly the state government, will seek to challenge the ban, still the people are worried enough about their health to take action.

As mentioned earlier, fracking has only been around for about ten years, but its effects on the environment are already starting to pile up.  For one, there is the contamination of soil and ground water as the chemicals used in the fracking process are left in the ground, and are not biodegradable.[xi]  In fact, the town of Pavillion, Wyoming have just recently had the EPA confirm that their ground drinking water has been contaminated from the fracking process.[xii]  You then have to worry about what happens if there is a spill.  In July of 2014 a million gallons of wastewater from a fracking plant was spilt in a river in North Dakota killing plant and animal life along the river, and is now traveling working its way to Lake Sakakawea, which is a main source of drinking water in the area.[xiii]  That is the damage being reported from just one, relatively small, spill of just wastewater.  Imagine if the spill had contained the tar sands that shale is found in, and is much more difficult to clean up.  Incidentally, fracking has also been linked to an increase in earthquakes and tremors in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.[xiv]

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Fracking is an industry that proponents claim will usher in a golden age of energy independence in the United States.  That may be true, if the industry can continue to access the shale at cost efficient levels.  However, can we truly ignore the problems that are more and more being associated with fracking?  I don’t have the answer, and even if I did I’m not a policy maker in the US government with the power to make that determination.  But I do know that we, the people who see the dangers and devastating effects of fracking on our health and wellbeing, as well as to our planet, have the right to make our voices heard.  There is a growing group of people who are speaking out against fracking, proving that the people can cause change if they work together.  As the evidence continues to mount as to the effects of fracking we must make sure that profit does not trump the environment, human health, and our very lives.


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About the Author

Dom resizeDominick Principe is a graduate of Rowan University with dual Bachelor Degrees in Elementary Education and Writing Arts.  He is a prolific reader who devours any book put before him, and feels that life is one great long book without an end.  He fills his hours constantly exploring new information, and seeking to educate himself in the ways of the world.  He puts all of that knowledge and his passion for learning to good use teaching English as a second language to students of all ages.  When his nose isn’t buried in a book, or in class teaching, then he can generally be found typing away at his computer working on some random piece of writing that he was inspired to do.


[i] “What Is Fracking.” What Is Fracking. Web. 20 Nov. 2014. <http://www.what-is-fracking.com/&gt;.

[ii] “What Goes In & Out of Hydraulic Fracking.” Dangers of Fracking. Web. 20 Nov. 2014. <http://www.dangersoffracking.com/&gt;.

[iii] “What Chemicals Are Used.” FracFocus Chemical Disclosure Registry. Web. 20 Nov. 2014. <https://fracfocus.org/chemical-use/what-chemicals-are-used&gt;.

[iv] “Hydrochloric Acid (Hydrogen Chloride).” EPA. Environmental Protection Agency. Web. 20 Nov. 2014. <http://www.epa.gov/ttnatw01/hlthef/hydrochl.html&gt;.

[v] “What Goes In & Out of Hydraulic Fracking.” Dangers of Fracking. Web. 20 Nov. 2014. <http://www.dangersoffracking.com/&gt;.

[vi] “What Goes In & Out of Hydraulic Fracking.” Dangers of Fracking. Web. 20 Nov. 2014. <http://www.dangersoffracking.com/&gt;.

[vii] “Fracking Chemicals Cited in Congressional Report Stay Underground.” Top Stories RSS. Web. 20 Nov. 2014. <http://www.propublica.org/article/fracking-chemicals-cited-in-congressional-report-stay-underground&gt;.

[viii] “Geology and Human HealthTopical Resources.” Potential Health and Environmental Effects of Hydrofracking in the Williston Basin, Montana. Web. 20 Nov. 2014. <http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/health/case_studies/hydrofracking_w.html&gt;.

[ix] Koch, Wendy. “People near ‘fracking’ Wells Report Health Woes.” USA Today. Gannett, 10 Sept. 2014. Web. 20 Nov. 2014. <http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2014/09/10/people-near-fracking-wells-health-symptoms/15337797/&gt;.

[x] “Battle Lines Drawn After Texas Town Bans Fracking.” NPR. NPR. Web. 20 Nov. 2014. <http://www.npr.org/2014/11/06/362086784/battle-lines-drawn-after-texas-town-bans-fracking&gt;.

[xi] “What Goes In & Out of Hydraulic Fracking.” Dangers of Fracking. Web. 20 Nov. 2014. <http://www.dangersoffracking.com/&gt;.

[xii] “Geology and Human HealthTopical Resources.” Potential Health and Environmental Effects of Hydrofracking in the Williston Basin, Montana. Web. 20 Nov. 2014. <http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/health/case_studies/hydrofracking_w.html&gt;.

[xiii] “‘Saltwater’ From Fracking Spill Is Not What’s Found in the Ocean.” Bloomberg.com. Bloomberg. Web. 20 Nov. 2014. <http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-07-16/-saltwater-from-fracking-spill-is-not-what-s-found-in-the-ocean.html&gt;.

[xiv] “How Oil and Gas Disposal Wells Can Cause Earthquakes.” Texas RSS. National Public Radio. Web. 20 Nov. 2014. <http://stateimpact.npr.org/texas/tag/earthquake/&gt;.