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Ruining a Perfectly Good Earth: Toxic Waste in the Air, Land, and Sea
Toxic waste is any byproduct that can cause death or serious injury, as well as disease and birth defects, to living creatures (ie. humans, other animals, plants and other kingdoms of life).
Living things can encounter toxic waste in a variety of ways, as there are a variety of toxic wastes in today’s human-influenced ecosystem. There are so many variants of toxic wastes that the only logical way to (broadly) categorize them is by the kind of environment they destroy. Let’s have a look at the variety of toxic pollutants by air, land, and sea…
On December 2, 1984, a pesticide plant in Bhopal, India leaked over 40 tons of methyl isocyanate gas, along with other toxic chemicals into the atmosphere — causing respiratory and cardiac arrests, and killing 8,000 people in only a few days. Sufferers were afflicted with coughing fits and fluid-filled lungs. In total, 20,000 residents have died as a result of this 1984 disaster.
373 toxic waste sites were analyzed by researchers in the Philippines, Indonesia, and India, and it was determined that outdoor air pollution claimed 1.5 million healthy years from the 1.6 billion regional population, compared to just 725,000 healthy years being taken from the population of these nations by malaria.
In 1976, the Environmental Protection Agency, or E.P.A, started regulating hazardous waste and began to require that toxic waste be handled with special precautions and disposed of only in designated areas.
The Toxic Substances Control Act required the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate potentially hazardous industrial chemicals, including halogenated fluorocarbons, dioxin, asbestos, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and vinyl chloride. Toxic waste dumps in the US that pose a threat to communities today are either the result of illegal dumping or existed prior to 1976.
8.6 million people risk exposure to lead, asbestos, hexavalent chromium, and an abundance of other hazardous materials just by living in India, the Philippines, or Indonesia. The myriad of toxic pollutants in these areas claims 829,000 good-health years from the people living in these areas.
Toxic waste can be dumped directly into the ocean or it can arrive there from land through stream runoffs or from floodwaters, as what happened with Hurricane Katrina. Mercury, highly poisonous in high doses, accumulates in ocean creatures and eventually ends up accumulating in the people and animals that eat fish.
Fifty countries signed an international treaty in 1989 aimed at regulating the international shipment of toxic wastes, but unfortunately toxic waste is sometimes shipped to developing countries to be disposed of cheaply but dangerously, often with substandard shipping that can lead to more ocean pollution.
Toxic waste is everywhere…and is even present in outer space! Innumerable amounts of garbage is flying in orbit around our planet, along with rumors of radioactive waste sent off into space as a means of disposal!
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