Pollutants can be divided into either solid, liquid and gaseous (based on the phase) or physical, chemical and biological. They can also be divided into biodegradable and non-biodegradable.
The actual classification that engineers and scientists use depends on the medium (water, air, soil, etc.) for which we are studying pollution.
Here are some examples of pollutants of different types:
1. Solid: (for water and soil/land pollution): metals, plastics, wood, leaves, human waste, animal waste, etc.
2. Liquid (for water and land pollution): Oil and other petroleum fragments (gasoline, diesel, kerosene, etc.), human/animal waste, chemicals (Acids, bases, etc.), etc.
3. Gaseous (for air pollution and also water pollution): hydrogen sulphide, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, Nitrogenous gases (NOx), sulfurous gases (SOx), etc.
4. Biological (for water, air and land pollution): pollen, bacteria, fungi, worms, virus etc.
Pollutants represent components of pollution, which is the process that changes the natural environment through contamination, breaking down the equilibrium of ecosystems.
There are many forms of pollution, such as: water, air, soil, noise, heat, light and radioactivity.
Water pollution is caused by water contamination with industrial waste. Dumping industrial waste into water leads to extinction of aquatic life. The detergents resulting from washing dishes and clothes into rivers block the sunlight, leading to death of aquatic life due to lack of oxygen.
Air pollution occurs due to disproportionate fuel burning and smoke from vehicles and factories. Coal burning releases toxic sulphur dioxide in the air, causing global warming and lung disease.
Noise pollution could lead to hearing impairment and psychological disorders, while light pollution can cause problems in astronomical observations.
Pollutants are substances (liquid, solid, gas) that are released into the environment and result in an undesirable effect. The most common types of pollutants that we hear of are chemical pollutants. These include environmental spills like crude oil or the recent mine waste water spill near Silverton Co. Both of these examples are on liquid spills and both resulted in environmental degradation.
Gaseous pollutants include: ozone, particulate material, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, and lead. The Environmental Protection Agency describes these as the most common air pollutants that are a concern to human health as well as environmental health.
Solid pollutants are environmental concern. The most common and concern pollutant in this category is trash. The effects that human waste is having on the environment is becoming more apparent as the years go by. One big example solid waste pollutants is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. This patch of pollutants is brought together by the swirling ocean currents and includes plastics and other trash items.