Pollution

Pollution is the release into the environment of contaminants that cause, or can cause, harm or discomfort to physical systems and living things. It takes many forms, including pollution by chemical substances, by heat, noise and light.

 

It is only when the levels of a substance rise above those found naturally in the environment that it becomes a pollutant. Pollution of the land, air and sea by human activities presents a wide range of environmental risks and is a threat to biodiversity and ecosystem services. For example, a major concern highlighted by the Millennium Assessment is nutrient enrichment of ecosystems.

 

World population has more than doubled over the last 40 years and is now six billion. It is currently projected to reach more than nine billion by 2050. The increased demand for food and energy has led to a doubling of reactive nitrogen production in the last century. The change has been critical for food security. However, the increase in production of nitrogen compounds and inefficiency of their use has led to a complex web of environmental impacts. They are undermining air, soil and water quality and, as a result, harming natural systems and contributing to climate change.

 

Diffuse phosphate pollution also represents a significant risk to freshwaters in the UK. A significant proportion of rivers and lakes are likely to fail Water Framework Directive water quality objectives due to high levels of phosphate.

 

Our pollution work currently focuses on air and marine pollution.