Types of Pollutants and their Effects

The presence or introduction of any harmful or poisonous substances into the environment is known as pollution. It refers to any unfavourable alteration of our surroundings. Pollutants are the unwanted chemicals and other materials present in the environment which have harmful or poisonous effects on environmental surroundings. Pollutants also have harmful effects on plants, animals, and human health. Various types of pollutants are


Types of Pollutants


Types of Pollutants on the basis of degradation

  • Biodegradable pollutants: These pollutants get decomposed by biological or microbial actions. Examples: Sewage, paper
  • Non-biodegradable pollutants: These cannot be degraded/decomposed or degrade at an extremely slow pace. Examples: Plastic, glass

Differences between biodegradable and non-biodegradable pollutants

Biodegradable pollutantsNon-biodegradable pollutants
Biodegradable pollutants decompose into the soil.Non-biodegradable pollutants never or take a fairly long time to decompose into the soil.
They do not pose a very serious challenge to the environment.These pollutants pose a serious challenge to the environment because they do not decompose into the soil.
Examples: Paper, eggshellsExamples: Metal cans, plastic products

Types of Pollutants on the basis of origin in the environment

  • Primary Pollutants: These pollutants are directly introduced into the environment such as sulphur dioxide and methane.
  • Secondary Pollutants: These pollutants are formed when primary pollutants come into contact with the environment. Example: When hydrocarbons come into contact with sunlight, they form peroxyacetyl nitrate.

Types of Pollutants on the basis of existence in nature

  • Quantitative Pollutants: These pollutants, although present in nature, may become harmful when their quantity increases. Examples: Carbon dioxide, nitrogen
  • Qualitative Pollutants: These pollutants do not exist in the environment but are introduced into the surroundings as a result of human activities. Examples: Pesticides, chemical fertilizers

You May Read

What is Eutrophication?

Eutrophication is a process in which oxygen begins to deplete from water bodies either naturally or because of human activities. Nutrients and chemicals are discharged into water bodies through sewage and effluents.