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Earth and Space > Pollutants

Below is a summary of most common air, water and soil pollutants. Lists of pollutants may be required if your students are studying AQA "humans and their environment" schemes specifically although other exam boards also cover pollution and their effects on the environment.

Air Pollutants

  • Sulfur dioxide
  • Nitrogen oxides
  • Ammonia
  • Carbon monoxide
  • Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)
  • Ozone
  • Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs)
  • Airborne particles
  • Toxic metals
  • Radioactive pollutants

Water Pollutants

Organic water pollutants:

  • Insecticides and herbicides, a range of organohalide
  • Bacteria from livestock operations
  • Food processing waste incl. pathogens
  • Tree debris from logging operations
  • VOCs including solvents and hydrocarbons
  • Dense non-aqueous phase liquids (DNAPLs) such as chlorinated solvents
  • Detergents and chemical compounds found in cosmetics products
Inorganic water pollutants:

  • Heavy metals
  • Acidity caused by industrial discharges such as sulfur dioxide by power plants
  • Chemical waste
  • Fertilizers from agricultural use
  • Silt from construction sites, logging, slash and burn operatio

Soil Pollutants (Contaminants)

  • Hydrocarbons
  • Solvents
  • Pesticides
  • Lead and other heavy metals
pollutant typical effect
smoke Deposits soot on buildings and trees, causing them damage. Permeates the air, making it difficult for living creatures to breathe.
carbon monoxide poisonous gas
carbon dioxide greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming
sulfur dioxide contributes to acid rain