Toxic Reality: 25 Disturbing Facts About Pollution

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1Red river

Red river

In Oklahoma, there exists a ghost town named Picher so polluted from lead mining that leftover minerals have caused the rivers to turn red. Children who went swimming in the arsenic-filled water thought they were just getting sunburnt - in reality, they were being covered in chemical burns.

2. In 2007, China tested a missile and shot down one of their own satellites and in the process created 2,087 pieces of space debris on crazy orbits. Tracking of these pieces are now a requirement to avoid space collisions.

3. A Japanese chemical company named Chisso Corporation once polluted a bay so thoroughly that some sediment contained up to 2 kg of mercury per ton. This concentration made mining economically viable, and eventually, the company set up a subsidiary to do just that.

4. The Taylor oil spill which has been going on since 2004 leaks 300-700 barrels of oil a day.

5. In 1952, London suffered from a severe smog that was the equivalent of breathing in acid rain. 4,000 people died from it and over 100,000 fell ill. Some train lines had to use explosions as signals because drivers couldn't see the lights. It is known to be the worst air-pollution event in the history of the UK.

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6Asian brown cloud

Asian brown cloud

The Asian brown cloud is a layer of air pollution that appears over South Asia and the Indian Ocean every year between January and March when there is no rain to wash pollutants from the air. Nearly two million people die each year, in India alone, from conditions related to the brown cloud.

7. In 2009, an estimated 31,000,000 birds died from being confused by light pollution while migrating overnight. Simply turning off the lights can potentially save tens of millions of birds from colliding with glass.

8. In 2014, the air was so polluted in Beijing that the government broadcasted fake sunrises and blue skies on a giant screen in Tiananmen Square.

9. Cubatão, Brazil is one of the most polluted cities in the world and has been nicknamed "Valley of Death", due to births of brainless children and respiratory, hepatic and blood illnesses.

10. Noise pollution is deadly to whales. Sonar can directly inflict fatal physical trauma and decompression sickness (akin to “the bends”) in whales, in which case, individuals and sometimes entire pods will beach themselves to escape, whereupon they will choke to death under their own weight or drown at high tide.

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11Burning candles

Burning candles

Burning candles are bad for your health, making homes as polluted as a typical Beijing apartment.

12. There are over 400,000 pounds of man-made trash and debris on the moon, including 96 bags of urine, feces, and vomit.

13. Studies show that air inside an office or a home is more polluted than the outside air. That’s why it is wise to crack open windows for some time, even in winter, to let some fresh air in. A cooler bedroom, at around 67 degrees, results in better sleep, but you don’t want to open your window too far in winter or you risk getting sick

14. A single large container ship emits as much pollution as 50 million automobiles.

15. The Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn, New York City is so polluted that unidentifiable new forms of microbiological life have arisen in its sludge.

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The most polluted city in the world, Zabol in Iran, gets its bad air quality mostly because of natural reasons. There is a constant flow of wind blowing in from the desert for four months of the year, which brings in harmful sand particles.

17. There are more than 500,000 pieces of debris floating or orbiting around Earth now. Most of them originated as parts of satellites and rockets.

18. Our oceans are being polluted with over 2.3 billion pieces of plastic. Pushed by winds, tides, and currents, plastic particles form with other debris into large swirling glutinous accumulation zones. There are a least 5 garbage patches drifting in the oceans north and south of the Equator.

19. In China, 300 million people suffer from bacterial diarrhea every year from drinking contaminated water. 40% of the rivers in China do not meet safety standards and 20% of them are so polluted that they aren’t even safe to touch.

20. The Cuyahoga River in Ohio was once so polluted that it caught fire 13 times between 1868 and 1969.

21Isle Royale

Isle Royale

6,000 years ago, extensive copper mining operations in North America polluted the Great Lakes region. Isle Royale National Park in the State of Michigan, features high levels of copper, lead, and potassium in the ancient sediments.

22. One-third of humanity (including 60% of Europeans and 80% of North Americans) live in such light-polluted areas that the Milky Way is not visible at night.

23. Ships that were constructed before 1945 are the primary source of steel which are not contaminated with radioactive nuclides. The atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki along with nuclear tests and disasters have polluted the earth’s atmosphere with nuclear particles.

24. In the 1970s, the pH of rain samples from parts of New York was at 3.3 due to pollution from the rust belt, the same acidity as grapefruit juice. The default pH of rain is 5.1. This prompted the creation of the term “Acid Rain.”

25. Companies are known to strategically place facilities where the wind will carry pollution across the state line or sometimes even country lines.

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