The environment we live on has long been the basis of all life since the beginning of time. However over the last two centuries omoniyi 2013 p.18 human activities such as the combustion of fossil fuels have transformed the chemistry of earths water and air and reshaped the web of life itself. These toxic pollutants can spread across hundreds of miles on the surface as well as into the depth of the ocean noaa 2019 and can be detrimental to life on this planet.
Fossil fuels can be used in multiple ways such as electricity and fuel for transportation systems and industries.
According to the national academies of science engineering and medicine 2015 a collective scientific national academy stated that the united states gets 81% of its total energy from oil coal and natural gas all of which are fossil fuels nasem 2015 although in order for these fossil fuels to be useful they must be extracted from deep within the earths crust and be processed in refineries across the united states and abroad which can leave a destructive aftermath.
As aforementioned this pollution affects water supplies because the extraction of coal means that deforestation must occur and this exposed soil can wash into nearby bodies of water since there are no roots to hold it together.
This new sediment can increase turbidity the degree of cloudiness which decreases the amount of sunlight that can reach aquatic plants preventing them from performing photosynthesis. Ultimately decreasing the concentration of dissolved oxygen to the point where marine life cannot survive because they cannot perform cellular respiration.
Another marine problem is the acidification of the oceans. A research team from the australian institute of marine science headed by elizabeth mcleod 2013 studied these effects and found that the ocean absorbs around 93% of the carbon in the atmosphere and with increasing levels of co2 being released every day the amount of carbon in the ocean increases proportionately causing acidification.
The effects of this phenomena can be drastic as coral reefs require very specific conditions in order to thrive and as the oceans become more acidic and the average temperature of the planet rises they are unable to survive leading to global bleaching or death of the reefs. Coral reefs are one of the most biodiverse ecosystems on the planet and as they slowly diminish so do marine populations. This has severe repercussions for humans as many countries citizens depend on fish from reefs as their staple food and only source of protein mcleod et al 2013 p. 20-26 smog and soot are two of the most prevalent types of air pollution.
Smog or in other words ground-level ozone mackenzie 2016 p.1 said kim knowlton a senior scientist and deputy director of the nrdc natural resources defense council science center occurs when emissions from combusting fossil fuels reacts with sunlight. Soot or particulate matter mackenzie 2016 p.1 is made up of tiny particles of chemicals soil smoke dust and even allergens in the form of gas or solids that are carried in the air. The epa environmental protection agency an independent agency of the united states stated in a research report that in many parts of the united states pollution has reduced the distance and clarity of what we see by 70 percent epa 2007 p.5 to go back and reinforce the idea that coal is also a contributing factor to pollution because of how much we use it another author by the name of john walke the director of the clean air project at nrdc stated that the source of both the smog and the soot come from similar areas.
Both come from cars and trucks factories power plants incinerators engines- anything that combusts fossil fuels such as coal gas or natural gas mackenzie 2016 p.1 the tiniest airborne particles in soot-whether they’re in the form of gas or solids-are especially dangerous because they can penetrate the lungs and bloodstream and worsen bronchitis paves way to heart attacks and even death. However on the other hand smog can irritate the eyes and throat and also damage the lungs. Although these symptoms are heightened for individuals with asthma or allergies. Nanotechnology can have a positive effect on the ocean and ocean life by helping clean up the toxins in the water from waste and runoff from water that contains pesticides among other sources.
Cleaning up sources of fresh water can also have a huge impact by being able to provide more water to places that have a scarcity and provide water for food production allowing farmers to grow more gehrke geiser somborn-schulz 2015 para.1 according to the national geographic a nonprofit organization that works to research and explore different parts of the world 2014 nanomaterials can strip water of toxic metals and organic molecules. For example researchers have discovered that nanometer-scale specks of rust are magnetic which can help remove dangerous chemicals from water.
Other engineers are developing nanostructured filters that can remove virus cells from water 2004 para. 54 nanotechnologys ability clean contaminants from the water is unrivaled among other forms of technology used to reduce water pollution. Nanotech has also began to improve the performance and cost of catalysts which can then be used to transform vapors escaping from cars or industrial plants into harmless gases. This works because catalysts made from nanoparticles have a greater surface area to interact with the reacting chemicals than catalysts made from larger particles.
However with nanotech being used in the ocean and other water supplies to combat pollution it has an easy access to humans were it could potentially be something dangerous since water is something we all consume. According to the dartmouth undergraduate journal of science 2009 the small size of nanoparticles warrants investigation of the consequences of inhalation and absorption.As they are small enough to penetrate the skin and diffuse through cell membranes para.17 another study done in the journal of business ethics entitled ethics in nanotechnology: what’s being done what’s missing by louis y. Y. Lu and Bruce j. Y. Lin who both work at the college of management at yuan ze university as well as John s. Liu who works at the national taiwan university of science and technology and chang-yung yu who works at providence university 2012 substantiates this claim of potential harm to the human body and the potential dangers of mass use of nanotechnology human health risks include large doses that can accumulate in cells and cause cells and organs to display a toxic response.
They manifest as nano-sized particles that can penetrate the olfactory system passing along axons into the brain. Lu lin liu yu 2012 p.592 nanotechnologys ability to harm the body by disrupting and destroying cells impairing organ function is a serious consequence of this technology. As a result research on how to control such devices would need to continue in order to avoid the severe harm that could be caused by nanotechnology to people worldwide. Using nanotechnology to combat water pollution could be a viable and long lasting solution that could benefit people worldwide by providing clean and safe drinking water all while helping clean up our oceans making it safer for everyone.
It could also potentially help the atmosphere making the air we breathe safer for humankind. However the potential impact on human health also needs to be strongly considered and more heavily researched before nanotechnology is implemented into everyday practices as it could severely hurt or even kill people. The well being of the marine life needs to be considered as well or we could just end up replacing one damaging factor with another. With respect to all these points in its current stipulation nanotechnology must be researched more in regards to how it will be controlled so that it does not harm the general population.