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: 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.


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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] “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: 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?

fracking 1

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]

fracking 2

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;.

Understanding Pollution: Don´t Compromise on Lead

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Growing up I remember hearing my parents talking about the dangers of lead paint, and making sure that my Christmas gifts didn’t contain any lead.  Now, I was learning about metals in school, and my young mind couldn’t understand why my parents were so concerned about a naturally occurring metal.  As I have been writing articles about pollution, that memory came back to me, and I decided that I should take some time to find out what the big deal is with lead.  What I found kind of shocked me.  I knew that lead had a detrimental effect, but I didn’t realize how much of an issue it was.  In fact, it is such a big issue that Congress in 2013 is still passing legislation dealing with lead from remodeling of homes that were built before 1978.[i]

Lead 1

143,000 people die annually, and over 600,000 children develop intellectual disabilities every year due to lead poisoning.[ii]  Those are some seriously high numbers which just go to show how truly dangerous lead is to the human body.  Lead impacts the body by disrupting oxygen and calcium transportation within the body, and by altering nerve transmission within our brains.[iii]  The lead then builds up in our kidneys, bone marrow, bones, teeth, brains, and livers where it continues to have negative effects on our bodies.[iv]  There are many symptoms to lead exposure, and some of the early signs are quite severe in and of themselves.  They include insomnia, a reduced attention span, loss of appetite, persistent fatigue and irritability, and stomach discomfort and constipation.[v]  As you can imagine, even the early signs of lead poisoning can be quite debilitating.  Imagine not sleeping for days while not eating, and being constipated.  You’d be in a lot of pain I would think.  Then you come to the truly serious effects of lead, which as mentioned above kill almost 150 thousand people a year.  If the effects of lead poisoning are not immediately lethal than other effects in adults include poor muscle coordination, nerve damage targeted specifically to the sensory organs and nerves that control the body’s muscles, increased blood pressure, loss of hearing and vision, reproductive problems including a reduced sperm count, and retarded fetal development.[vi]

As is often the case, the children suffer the most because they tend to absorb lead more easily into their bodies, and because their minds are developing, are more likely to suffer cognitive impairments.[vii].  Children who intake lead into their systems often suffer damage to the brain and nervous system, behavioral problems, anemia, damage to the liver and kidneys, loss of hearing, developmental delays, and are more likely to intake a fatal amount of lead.[viii]  The effects that lead have on the body are not something to play around with, and if you suspect that you or your family member are suffering from lead poisoning you should go immediately to the Emergency Room.

Lead 2

There are quite a few sources of lead that we interact with every day.  Luckily, Congress recognized the dangers of lead back in the 1970s and made some moves towards limiting its impact on us all.[ix]  However, lead is very difficult to get rid of.  For example, in 1996 lead was banned from use in gasoline, but there is still lead in soil all around the country that goes back to 96 and before.[x]  Lead can still be found to this day in paint in homes build before 1978, and in the pipes that supply drinking water to homes built before 1986.[xi]  It is estimated that 19 million homes contain lead based paint.[xii]  Lead is also present in the air from industrial sources such as smelters, incinerators, and battery production facilities.[xiii]  Other sources include lead-glazed ceramics, china, leaded crystal and pewter, firearms that use lead bullets, imported candies, and imported food cans, and lead dust mainly from flaking paint; which by the way is not always visible to the naked eye.[xiv]  These are just some of the more common sources of lead, but there are others.  Lead is a naturally occurring metal, so there is quite a bit of it in our world.

The best way to deal with lead is to have your home checked to make sure that your pipes, paints, and other building materials contain no more than the acceptable levels of lead.  You can buy a do-it-yourself testing kit, but if you are planning on doing any remodeling, or you don’t trust do-it-yourself kits and want a professional, you will need to have an EPA certified tester come and test your home.  He will take paint, dust and soil samples to test for the level of lead, and he will be able to tell you if your home is safe or not.[xv]  A tester coming out to your home will cost somewhere around $300-$400, which isn’t bad especially if you have young children and really want peace of mind.[xvi]  Hepa air filters are also a good investment, since they are powerful enough to pick up lead in the air.[xvii]

Lead is a serious issue as more and more people are starting to realize.  The number of people that are affected by lead every year is truly astounding, and the number of homes that could one day cause problems for their inhabitants is also overwhelming.  All you can do is take precautions.  Money may be tight, but you can’t put a price on peace of mind, so have an inspector come out to your home, or buy a testing kit especially if you have children.  Growing up several of my cousins were autistic, so I know how truly heartbreaking it can be to watch children with developmental issues grow up in a world where people don’t understand them.  It’s not something I wish on anyone, and the parents who raise those children deserve a medal.  Growing up is hard enough without having to worry about something like lead forever changing the course of a child’s life.


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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] “S.484 – Lead Exposure Reduction Amendments Act of 2013113th Congress (2013-2014).”S.484. United States Congress. Web. 26 Nov. 2014. <https://www.congress.gov/bill/113th-congress/senate-bill/484&gt;.

[ii] “Lead Poisoning and Health.” WHO. World Health Organization. Web. 26 Nov. 2014. <http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs379/en/&gt;.

[iii] “How Lead Poisons the Human Body.” NRDC:. Web. 26 Nov. 2014. <http://www.nrdc.org/health/effects/flead.asp&gt;.

[iv] “How Lead Poisons the Human Body.” NRDC:. Web. 26 Nov. 2014. <http://www.nrdc.org/health/effects/flead.asp&gt;.

[v] “Human Health and Lead.” EPA. Environmental Protection Agency. Web. 26 Nov. 2014. <http://www.epa.gov/superfund/lead/health.htm&gt;.

[vi] “Human Health and Lead.” EPA. Environmental Protection Agency. Web. 26 Nov. 2014. <http://www.epa.gov/superfund/lead/health.htm&gt;.

[vii] “Human Health and Lead.” EPA. Environmental Protection Agency. Web. 26 Nov. 2014. <http://www.epa.gov/superfund/lead/health.htm&gt;.

[viii] “Human Health and Lead.” EPA. Environmental Protection Agency. Web. 26 Nov. 2014. <http://www.epa.gov/superfund/lead/health.htm&gt;.

[ix] “EPA.” Lead Laws and Regulations. Environmental Protection Agency. Web. 26 Nov. 2014. <http://www2.epa.gov/lead/lead-laws-and-regulations&gt;.

[x] “Sources of Lead.” Sources of Lead. Web. 26 Nov. 2014. <https://www.health.ny.gov/environmental/lead/sources.htm&gt;.

[xi] “Sources of Lead.” Sources of Lead. Web. 26 Nov. 2014. <https://www.health.ny.gov/environmental/lead/sources.htm&gt;.

[xii] “HomeSafe: Lead Testing FAQs.” HomeSafe: Lead Testing FAQs. Web. 26 Nov. 2014. <http://www.leadpro.com/faq.html#Remodeling&gt;.

[xiii] “Sources of Lead.” Sources of Lead. Web. 26 Nov. 2014. <https://www.health.ny.gov/environmental/lead/sources.htm&gt;.

[xiv] “Sources of Lead.” Sources of Lead. Web. 26 Nov. 2014. <https://www.health.ny.gov/environmental/lead/sources.htm&gt;.

[xv] “HomeSafe: Lead Testing FAQs.” HomeSafe: Lead Testing FAQs. Web. 26 Nov. 2014. <http://www.leadpro.com/faq.html#Remodeling&gt;.

[xvi] “HomeSafe: Lead Testing FAQs.” HomeSafe: Lead Testing FAQs. Web. 26 Nov. 2014. <http://www.leadpro.com/faq.html#Remodeling&gt;.

[xvii] “HomeSafe: Lead Testing FAQs.” HomeSafe: Lead Testing FAQs. Web. 26 Nov. 2014. <http://www.leadpro.com/faq.html#Remodeling&gt;.