Pollution: an overview

Pollution is the contamination of air, water, or earth by harmful substances. Concern for pollution developed alongside concerns for the environment in general. See Environmental law. The advent of automobiles, increased chemical wastes, nuclear wastes, and accumulation of garbage in landfills created a need for legislation specifically aimed at decreasing pollution.

Among the landmark acts designed to preserve our environment is the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (42 U.S.C §§ 6901 et seq.); a comprehensive regulatory statute aimed at controlling solid waste disposal. The Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 (42 U.S.C. §§ 10101 et seq.) aims to safely dispose of nuclear wastes. The Clear Air Act was first enacted in 1970, it was later amended in 1977 and again in 1990; with its present form embodied in 42 U.S.C. §§ 7401 et seq. Like these examples demonstrate, most environmental regulations are federal in nature.

Among the types of pollution, the one that has existed longer than any other is water pollution. Its consequences are readily seen when pollutants reach groundwater reservoirs, creating serious health hazards to people drinking the water. The current version of the Federal Clean Water Act can be found at 33 U.S.C. §§ 1251 et seq.

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