Pollution Facts
Pollution Facts

65 Interesting Facts about Pollution

Karin Lehnardt
By Karin Lehnardt, Senior Writer
Published June 6, 2017
  • Approximately 30% of the air pollution in San Francisco originates in China.[3]
  • Approximately 1/3 of male fish in British rivers are in the process of changing sex due to pollution. Hormones in human sewage, including those produced by the female contraceptive pill, are thought to be the main cause.[24]
  • Global warming is not only shrinking the polar icecaps, it is also shrinking the genitals of polar bears in east Greenland.[4]
  • An estimated 1,000 children in India die everyday due to disease caused by polluted water.[6]
  • In response to the nuclear crisis after the 2011 tsunami, the Japanese government dumped 11 million liters (2 million gallons) of radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean. A few days later, radioactive fish were found 50 miles offshore.[28]
  • An estimated 1 in 8 global deaths per year, or 7 million people, is linked to air pollution[31]
  • Random Pollution Facts
    Polluted air contains over 200 chemicals that age the skin

  • Ocean pollution kills over one million seabirds each year.[20]
  • Three hundred thousand dolphins and porpoises die each year as a result of becoming entangled in old fishing nets and lines.[20]
  • The North Pacific Gyre off the coast of California is the largest oceanic garbage site in the entire world. It is an island of garbage twice the size of Texas.[20]
  • Sound pollution from ships, sonar devices, and oil rigs can disrupt the migration, communication, hunting, and reproduction patterns of many marine animals, such as whales and dolphins.[17]
  • Humans create over 1.3 billion tons of trash a year, more of it in the United States (254 million tons a year) than anywhere else in the world.[8]
  • Researchers have discovered extremely high levels of toxic industrial pollutants in the deepest and remotest parts of the ocean.[17]
  • Water and air, the two essential fluids on which all life depends, have become global garbage cans.

    - Jacques-Yves Cousteau

  • Studies show that children in families who live near freeways are twice as likely to have autism as kids who live farther away from freeways. Scientists believe the increased risk is due to exposure to pollutants given off by freeway traffic.[27]
  • The Ganges River in India is one of the most polluted rivers in the world. The pollution includes sewage, trash, food, and animal remains. In some places the Ganges is septic, and corpses of semi-cremated adults or enshrouded babies drift down the river.[6]
  • According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 6,400 people die every year in Mexico City and more than 1 million suffer from permanent breathing problems due to air pollution.[30]
  • The ancient Greek Acropolis is believed to have crumbled more in the last 40 years than it has in the previous 2,500 due to acid rain. Nearly 40% of China’s land area is affected by acid rain, and by 1984 half of the trees in Germany’s Black Forest were damaged by acid rain.[9]
  • Lake Karachay, located in the southern Ural Mountains in Russia, is considered to be the most polluted spot on earth after it was used for decades as a dumping site for nuclear waste. Spending just 5 minutes near the lake unprotected can kill a person. In the 1960s, the lake dried out and radioactive dust carried by the wind irradiated half a million people with radiation equivalent to the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima.[30]
  • Over 1.4 billion pounds of trash per year enters the ocean. Most of it is plastic.[20]
  • Interesting Water Pollution Fact
    A sea of trash

  • The soot and smoke from indoor cooking fires in undeveloped countries create deadly indoor pollution and kill as many as 2 million people annually, which is a higher death rate than for malaria.[13]
  • In December 1952, air pollution in London created fatal smog that immediately killed 4,000 people and then 8,000 more in the following weeks. Burning coal was the main cause.[30]
  • The largest e-waste site on earth is in Guiyu, China. Approximately 88% of children there have dangerous levels of lead in their blood.[7]
  • The world’s largest CO2 emitter is China. China emits more CO2 than the U.S. and Canada combined, up by 171% since 2000. However, China has four times as many people as the United States, so the Chinese still burn far less fossil fuel on average than Americans.[32]
  • The world’s largest polluter is the U.S. Department of Defense, producing more hazardous waste than the five largest U.S. chemical companies combined.[29]
  • While the Great Wall of China cannot be seen from space, China's massive amounts of air pollution can is.[25]
  • Over 200,000 trees each year are used to make disposable diapers in the U.S. alone. In addition, it takes 3.4 billion gallons of fuel oil every year to make diapers.[6][12]
  • Disposable diapers take about 500 years to decompose.[12]
  • In the United States, people use over 18 billion disposable diapers, 220 million tires, and 30 billion foam cups per year.[30]
  • Each year 1.2 trillion gallons of untreated sewage, storm water, and industrial waste are dumped into U.S. waters.[30]
  • Factories in the United States discharge approximately 3 million tons of toxic chemicals into the water, air, and land annually.[30]
  • The average American throws away 7.1 pounds of trash per day, which is 102 tons in a lifetime.[33]
  • Interesting Noise Pollution Facts
    Noise pollution can cause hypertension, high stress levels, tinnitus, hearing loss, sleep disturbances, and other harmful effects
  • Noise pollution can cause stress-related illness, hearing loss, sleep disruption, lost productivity, and high blood pressure. The EPA estimates that millions of people in the U.S. adversely suffer from noise pollution.[18]
  • Los Angeles is the nation's leader in harmful ozone pollution from car tailpipes emitting smog.[16]
  • Eight out of 10 Californians , or 32 million people, live in counties with unhealthy levels of ozone or particle pollution some time during the year[16]
  • A study of 60 beaches in Southern California revealed that water pollution is highest when tides ebb during the new and full moon.[1]
  • People who live in places with high levels of air pollutants have a 20% higher risk of death from lung cancer than people who live in less-polluted areas. While smokers make up 85-90% of lung cancer cases, up to 15,000 nonsmokers die in the U.S. from lung cancer.[2]
  • Los Angeles International Airport emits approximately 19,000 tons of carbon dioxide—a month. The roughly 33,000 planes that fly in and out of the airport each month release about 800,000 tons of carbon dioxide.[21]
  • A single NASA space shuttle launch produces 28 tons of carbon dioxide. An average car generates about half a ton per month. A launch also releases 23 tons of harmful particulate matter, which then settles around the launch site. Additionally, 13 tons of hydrochloric acid kills fish and plants within half a mile of the launch site. Researchers note that the environmental cost of a launch is approximately the same as of New York City over a weekend.[21]
  • Scientists report that carbon dioxide emissions are decreasing the pH of the oceans and, in essence, acidifying them.[30]
  • Antarctica is the cleanest place on Earth and is protected by strong anti-pollution laws.[23]
  • People who litter are more likely to be men between 18-34 years old, smokers, people who eat at fast food places at least two times per week, and drive more than 50 miles a day.[15]
  • If all the tires Americans throw away each year were stacked on top of each other, the pile would reach 32,000 miles high—a greater distance than the circumference of the earth at the equator (24,901 miles).[11]
  • Interesting Garbage Fact
    In the USA, an estimated 300 million tires are disposed of annually; tires are not biodegradable

  • Over 51 billion pieces of litter are thrown onto the roads in the United States annually. Litter cleanup costs an estimated $11.5 billion in the U.S. each year.[15]
  • In Florida alone, hundreds of thousands of sea turtle hatchlings are killed due to light pollution. Hatchlings gravitate toward brighter lights, and, consequently, crawl toward city lights rather than to the sea. Additionally, light pollution affects the breeding and migration of many types of birds.[14]
  • Every year, the United States creates 11 billion tons of solid waste.[29]
  • It will cost between $370 billion and $1.7 trillion to clean up hazardous waste in the U.S. The EPA states that there are at least 36,000 seriously contaminated sites in the U.S.[29]
  • Between 1950 and 1975, approximately 5 billion metric tons of highly poisonous chemicals were improperly disposed of in the U.S.[30]
  • The Environmental Protection Agency reports that the U.S. generates over 256 million tons of officially classified hazardous waste annually. This does not include toxic and hazardous waste that are not regulated or monitored by the EPA.[30]
  • The amount of plastic waste has been increasing about 10% each year for the past 20 years.[11]
  • The average office employee throws away 360 pounds of recyclable paper each year.[30]
  • Americans make up an estimated 5% of the world’s population. However, the U.S. produces an estimated 30% of the world’s waste and uses 25% of the world’s resources.[30]
  • Weird Pollution Fact
    Only around 1% of the Earth's water is fresh water
  • Globally, 15 million children under the age of five die each year because of diseases caused by drinking water.[30]
  • For 1.1.billion people around the world, clean water in unobtainable. Almost half of the world’s population does not have proper water treatment.[29]
  • Today, there are between 300 and 500 chemicals in the average person’s body that were not found in anyone’s body before 1920. Each year there are thousands of new chemicals sold or used in new products. There are more than 75,000 synthetic chemicals on the market today.[30]
  • Over 80% of items buried in landfills could be recycled instead.[11]
  • Factories in the United States discharge approximately 3 million tons of toxic chemicals into the water, air, and land annually.[30]
  • Each year 1.2 trillion gallons of untreated sewage, storm water, and industrial waste are dumped into U.S. waters.[30]
  • Cigarette butts are the most littered item in the world, with over 4.5 trillion cigarettes are littered worldwide each year.[5]
  • Over 176,000,000 pounds of cigarette butts are discarded in the United States each year.[5]
  • Cigarette butts are composed of cellulose acetate, a type of plastic that takes years to decompose; estimates vary between 5-400 years.[5]
  • Americans use over 380 billion plastic bags and wraps annually. It takes 12 million barrels of oil to produce this many bags.[19]
  • Crazy Pollution Fact
    Toothbrush bristles have a lifespan of about 3 months
  • Over 1 billion toothbrushes are thrown away each year in the U.S. alone. This is enough to circle the globe 4 times.[10]
  • Over one trillion plastic bags are used each year around the world. This equates to 100 million barrels of oil.[19]
  • For all of the 7.4 billion people alive on the planet right now, there are around 15 dead people buried beneath them. Even if just 10% of those who died were buried in a casket, the cement, embalming fluid, and metal causes significant pollution.[22]
  • Over 50 million pounds of toothbrushes are added to landfills each year in the United States alone.[10]
  • The average woman throws away 250 to 300 pounds of "pads, plugs, and applicators" in her lifetime, which is equivalent to about 62,415 pounds of garbage.[26]

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