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Pollution problems are not just problems of the air, water, or soil. Pollution affects all parts of the environment. When we put something into the environment, it doesn't just go away. The pollutant eventually becomes part of the environment. When a toxic chemical enters our lakes and rivers, it doesn't just stay there. It enters the plants and animals that live in the water. It may enter drinking water that people use. It may get into the soil through irrigation. Eventually it is washed into the ocean where fish and other creatures may become contaminated. If we eat these fish, we too become contaminated. Serious diseases, like cancer, could be associated with pollution.

Some environmental problems are not easy to see. Not all pollutants cause immediate or short-term problems. It may take years of exposure or build-up before any effects are seen. A good example is the accumulation of carbon dioxide in the air. One of the by-products of combustion is carbon dioxide. For over a century man has been burning huge amounts of coal, oil and gas. Research suggests that we have burned so much that we have increased the amount of carbon dioxide in the air. Carbon dioxide absorbs heat. A small increase in the amount of carbon dioxide will increase the temperature of the earth. This is called the "enhanced greenhouse effect". A rise of the average annual temperature of 3 degrees Celsius would make most of the prairies unsuitable for agriculture. It would be too dry. This same rise in temperature would start melting the polar ice caps. The world's sea coasts could be flooded by several metres of water. The hole in the ozone layer is also caused by pollution.

Governments, industry, and public groups all recognize the need to manage and protect the environment so that it continues to provide the necessities of life. Scientists in government and industry research environmental problems. New information is used to make new regulations or devise new processes which improve environmental quality. Public groups tell government and industry of their concerns and interests. Each of us has a part to play in this process.

The planet Earth is the only place we know of in the whole universe where mankind can live. We need to take care of it. Finding another planet that can sustain life as it is on earth is going to be tough, but itÂ’s a big universe!

For information on other environmental issues click here.