5 Ways Water Pollution Is Killing Animals

Editor’s note: This Care2 favorite was originally posted on April 3, 2014. Enjoy!

Human activities are contaminating the world’s water systems and disrupting wildlife. From toxic chemical runoff  to the accumulation of litter miles away from land, here are five ways water pollution is killing animals:

1. More Than a Million Sea Birds and Mammals Are Killed Each Year By Ingestion of Plastic

Around 100 million tons of plastic is produced every year, of which 10 percent ends up in the sea. Ocean litter comes from many sources — including trash that washes off city streets, waste blown in from landfills and containers that fall off ships during heavy storms. Once in the water, the debris accumulates in large patches, travels with currents and washes up onshore. This litter is frequently consumed — often with fatal effects — by marine mammals, fish and birds who mistake it for food. The Trash Vortex of the North Pacific ocean consists of trillions of pieces of decomposing plastic that forms a gigantic swirling garbage patch the size of Texas.

2. Chemical Runoff From Farms Has Caused 400 Dead Zones Around the World

The use of pesticides and fertilizers on farms has increased an alarming 26 fold over the last 50 years, causing serious environmental consequences. Chemical runoff from farms is leaching into nearby streams, waterways and groundwater, killing thousands of insects and fish. The presence of fertilizers in the water alters nutrient systems, resulting in explosive growths of algae that produce harmful toxins and deplete the water of oxygen, and as a result little or no marine life can exist. Scientists have recorded an estimated 400 such dead zones around the world.

3. Noise Pollution Is Driving Animals to Extinction

Pollution is not always physical. Sound waves from ships, sonar devices and oil rigs can travel for miles disrupting migration, communication, hunting and reproduction patterns of many marine animals. The deafening noise of gas and oil explorations are so loud that they are causing devastating effects to the sea life residing in our world’s oceans such as mass strandings, reckless diving, the inability to find food and chronic stress. Extreme noise pollution has been known to kill hundreds of dolphins and whales at a time, many of which are already on the brink of extinction.

4. Cruise Ships Dump More Than 250,000 Gallons of Wastewater and Sewage Every Day

Due to lax laws, cruise ships have been operating with little to no environmental regulations, and as a result have caused a great deal of damage to sensitive marine life. Current regulations allow cruise ships to legally dump untreated sewage and other waste once the ships are three miles from shore. This toxic waste is discharged directly into the ocean and contains bacteria, pathogens, medical waste, oils, detergents, heavy metals and other harmful substances, all of which are putting aquatic life at risk.

5. Acid Rain Discharges Toxic Amounts of Aluminum into the Water Systems

When water in the atmosphere mixes with certain chemicals, in particularly those omitted from burning fossil fuels, acidic compounds are formed. Acid rain has been linked to many serious adverse effects on ecosystems, especially aquatic ecosystems on which it falls. Through the discharge of toxic amounts of aluminum into the water, pH levels are altered, killing many animals outright and throwing delicate ecosystems out of balance.

You can help to protect the planet and sustain the world’s ecosystems by supporting environmental groups that are fighting to put a stop to these harmful practices, as well as by making your own conscious decisions regarding waste management, harmful chemicals and earth friendly alternatives to your everyday products.

Photo Credit: Mark Galer/Unsplash


Clare O'Beara
Clare O20 days ago

clear up pollution

Clare O'Beara
Clare O20 days ago


Clare O'Beara
Clare O20 days ago


JoAnn Paris
JoAnn Paris26 days ago

Thank you for this very interesting article.

Danuta Watola
Danuta W27 days ago

thanks for sharing

Nicole H
Nicole H29 days ago

When reading such articles, or watch documentaries about pollutions, etc.. I always think : seen my age, it can still be reversed, provided we act rapidly and carefully. But as it appears that so little is done, so slowly, I wonder how the world will be in 30 years, when my grandchildren are between 40 and 50, and how it will be for my great grand children ?? Really I would not like to change with them. We humans still think that everything belongs to us, and that we can use it as we want. That we cause a lot a damages, debris etc.. which will last for centuries, is not of our concern. It is so sad to see we do all what we can to destroy a once beautiful planet. Thanks to ourselves and OUR GOVERNMENTS !!

silja salonen
silja s29 days ago

cruise ships carry consuming shitters. I am always shocked, then I become disheartened with all that we know about the destruction we as humans are doing... still our greed for our personal pleasure completely out weighs the future of this beautiful blue marble we call Mother Earth. ... this is so fucking despressing

Camilla V
Camilla Vaga29 days ago


Sue H
Sue Habout a month ago


Chrissie R
Chrissie Rabout a month ago

Thank you for posting.