• Ethan Cui

Unravelling the Many Effects of Synthetic Chemicals in Our Water Systems

Advancement in synthetic material and chemistry has taken a major toll on the planet's waters. Miscellaneous research has unveiled abysmal news of harm imposed on various ecosystems and species, as a result of troubled waters. The negative impacts of the contaminated water have also reached out enough to incur impacts on humans as well. This is due to the widespread use of pesticides, herbicides, man-made fertilizers, and other products containing harmful chemicals. This is accompanied by the irresponsible approach of the disposal of chemicals and synthetic materials. Subsequently, the chemicals find their way into many ecosystems, when they amount to a serious deleterious predicament. Due to this, it presents a multitude of dangers and threats to our world. The usage and production of synthetic materials and chemicals that we use in our daily lives have a profound impact on our environment and other lives. The Northern Leopard frog, Beluga whales, human reproduction and health, the Great Barrier Reef, as well as many other aquatic components are all examples of things put in jeopardy from negligence in chemistry. It will be investigated how certain approaches and aspects of chemistry will affect biology through our water. Our waters may seem pristine in appearance, however, the reality is hidden in the depths of our water systems and the components that are immanent within them.

The Northern Leopard frog is affected by a chemical that tampers with the male reproductive systems. Frogs from a study by a team of American scientists reveal that a chemical called “Atrazine” vexes the bodily functions of the frog. This chemical is mostly used on cornfields, where their purpose is to stunt or eliminate weed growth. This chemical is sprayed before planting commences and is often displaced into frog habitats through winds and storms. This particular chemical alters the function of the reproductive systems in male Northern Leopard frogs, making them produce estrogen and eggs, which is not what the male reproductive system in these frogs is for. The more substantial discovery of this should be regarding chemical dosages in general. Smaller doses of Atrazine in frogs can pose larger threats, while larger doses are less harmful. Larger doses may stimulate the defence of the body, while smaller amounts can sneak in surreptitiously. This piques the question of how chemical hazards are examined. These impacts of the chemical that are immanent in the species diminish males' mating abilities. Ultimately, the reproduction of this species is put at stake, which can interfere perniciously with the structure of the ecosystem and the ability of the organisms within to thrive. These frogs are often regarded as indicator species since they are collected and put into research to provide results that are able to show or indicate certain circumstances, thus indicating certain issues. The numbers of this frog species are plummeting in many places. However, it is not only this particular species of frog that is currently in a troubled state. About 20 other types of frogs worldwide have vanished from ecosystems. This pushes the ecosystem into a more volatile path.

Cancer rates in one species of whale are higher than any other organism in wildlife due to chemical exposure in their habitat. This is no other than the Beluga whale, the species that is known to have the highest risk for cancers than other wildlife studied. The main cause of this is due to the toxins that end up in bodies of water or water systems. This species of whale is exposed to a wide range of contaminants that are formed by various chemical cocktails which are released by humans as waste or discharge. Chemical waste that ends up in waterways combines to form chemical cocktails that are intrusive when they make their way into the bodies of these animals, making many beached Beluga whales qualify as extremely hazardous waste. The harm of chemical mixtures is when it hampers the immune systems of Beluga whales. When exposed to bacteria, weakened cells of their bodily systems no longer have the ability to defeat and eliminate bacteria, thus indicating the malfunction of the cells. This is especially with cells that fight infections and fend off cancer. Immune cells that are healthy will successfully engulf bacteria while the production of cells that have been subjected to the harm of chemicals will be severely stunted, subsequently, not being able to produce adequate aid to fight off bacterial intruders. This process leads to higher risks for cancer that is present in many of these whales. In one groundbreaking study, it was discovered that examining and researching merely the effects of individual substances is not enough. This is due to the fact that different chemicals can combine or mix into a congregation of chemicals to form mixtures that are toxic. Individual chemicals themselves can be innocuous. However, when combined with various other ones, mixtures could be lethal and have the potential to pose destabilizing effects on nature. Taking all this into account, it calls into question how we assess chemical safety. It is suggested that studying combinations of the chemicals is now the task. Only assessing the effects of chemicals one by one does not mitigate the harm it can impose when combined with others. For years, this scientific approach has made scientists overlook the dangers of chemicals. This does come with complications, as assessing chemical combinations is not lenient at all. It calls for many diligent scientists that can adhere to stringent and tedious procedures in laboratories. Patience and education of this issue can be one of the only ways to help resolve and mitigate the harm imposed. We will not be extricated or exempt from facing this issue. Another way would be to simply boycott any chemicals in the household that would be discarded after use.

A myriad of synthetic chemicals is sometimes exposed to people every day, while they are completely oblivious of it. As research has revealed, agricultural chemicals can interfere with human reproductive health as well. One particular study that looks into the semen and sperm qualities in men of four cities in the United States has shown how the employment of pesticides and man-made fertilizers in rural areas can have an impact on the health of humans. Through this, it was discovered that our homes do not protect us from some harmful chemicals. Scientists have already discovered high miscarriage rates in women that drank tap water containing elevated levels of chlorine byproducts. Now, they are focused on the reproductive health of men. Semen samples from fertility clinics in four different cities across America were collected and compared. Samples were collected from New York, Minneapolis, Los Angeles, and Columbia, Missouri, four very different places and regions where Americans live. Originally, it was predicted that the semen would be healthier in Columbia where the farming communities are, and the urban settings in Los Angeles, New York and Minneapolis would be poorer, as the three large cities would be more polluted. However, the initial findings suggest the opposite. The great rural midwest would seem cleaner compared to other larger urban areas, but the reality is hidden in the crop fields and in the water distribution circulating their region. The sperm quality was significantly lower in Columbia, where the American countryside is. The culprit of this is the chemicals that are found in pesticides and fertilizers used on the crop fields of the farmland, which end up in the bodies of the inhabitants near or on farms. The chemicals that enter the bodies of these men from rural areas diminish their semen quality. All the men from this region did not work directly with farm chemicals, but they did have one thing in common. That is, they all drink tap water. The farm chemicals used on the Columbia farmlands seep into the water systems, which are used to supply homes. This is what the problem is. These intrusive farm chemicals are not extracted or removed from the water through the filtration processes and some remain in the water that is distributed to homes. Farm chemicals are in abundance in the American rural midwest, something that it has, while other cities in urban settings would not have. Therefore, the semen qualities are at much higher levels in these cities compared to the rural areas, contrary to popular belief. Not only are these synthetic chemicals found in the water we drink and use, but can be found in the food we consume, cosmetics, detergent, and fabrics. Our plumbing can also allow these chemicals to find their way out of our households and into the open world. This is how they can also affect lives beyond our own. The subsequent lesson that should be taken away from this study is that these chemicals and their impacts can be more prevalent than we would presume.

Sugarcane farming practices are also putting marine ecosystems at stake. The process of growing sugarcanes involves the heavy use of various harmful chemicals and fertilizers. Through the fields that they are grown on, these chemicals leak into the earth and divert into water systems. A major cause of this is due to tropical storms that flush them away, into water bodies that are eventually brought down into the oceans. Sugar farming near the coast of Australia has imposed great damage to the coral reefs. Chemicals used on the Australian farmland end up in the oceans off the coast of Australia. This is how the destruction of sugarcane farming chemicals is the most evident in the Great Barrier Reefs. The chemicals and fertilizers contain nitrogen that fertilizes the coral reefs enough for an explosive amount of algae to grow. This is where the intrusion of chemicals found in fertilizers and pesticides attracts the “Crown of Thorn”, which is a species of destructive starfish that can harm the coral reefs. The intrusions of the chemicals in the ocean culminate into harmful effects for the barrier reefs. A possible solution that has been carried out to specifically remedy the situation is by planting trees near the bodies of water or water systems. The trees will be able to suck up the chemical leakage used on farmland and hamper the number of synthetic chemicals that end up in the water system, thus decreasing the amount of nitrogen that reaches into the coral reefs.

Our water systems are home to many marine life, some of which we rely on for food or recreation. Mercury is now an abundant chemical found in water bodies and various organisms that inhabit lakes, streams and rivers. Many organisms are not spared from the negative impacts of Mercury. Even small quantities of these chemicals can present devastating results to the health of the environment and have effects on our lives. Mercury is either flushing into many creeks, rivers and lakes from factories and production plants or carried through the atmosphere before it precipitates back to the earth. For animals, it can destroy and interfere with their nervous systems and disturb their reproduction patterns. This will subsequently pose destabilizing effects on wildlife as a whole. For people, the consumption of Mercury is harmful to the digestive system, nervous system, kidneys, lungs, and immune system, which could result in fatal outcomes. In bodies of water that contain this chemical industrial mercury discharge, microorganisms in the water can transform the chemical into a toxic form called “Methylmercury”. The concentration of Methylmercury increases greatly when making its way up the aquatic food chain, immensely augmenting the servings of it for every higher-ranking consumer. In order to counteract the harm imposed upon aquatic life, new research suggests employing new methods that can extract mercury to limit the concentration and amount of the chemicals heading into water systems. New science has revealed that a variety of plants can survive even when exposed to various synthetic chemicals and have the ability to extract the nutrients from the soil. The studies noted that they simply suck them up through their roots since plants are able to extract nutrients from the ground. The hundreds of miles of roots that plants in the ground can grow is able to be exploited to our advantage to remove harmful chemicals from entering water sources. In this case, the scientists grow genetically modified plants that can remove extra toxins from the ground (specifically mercury) that leaks in most water bodies. This was achieved by bestowing mercury eating genes in various plants. If enough of these plants are produced and approved by governments, large amounts of Methylmercury will never have the chance to enter the waters. Some plants store the chemical waste in their leaves while others will emit it into the atmosphere in the form of a less harmful vapour, which mitigates the harm.

A lot of other research has gathered evidence of the migration patterns of marine wildlife. The aquatic species studied for this particular mission was the Mola Mola fish. Before the initial findings took place, the conductors of this project hypothesized that the marine life living in the open oceans far from shorelines are clean of chemicals in their bodies since the concentration of pollution is lower. This is since the waters are more diluted in the open ocean, thus there is a lower concentration of pollutants. The Mola Mola fish is usually known for living in the open oceans far away from coastal waters, away from where the concentrations of toxic waste are the highest. However, when tracking tags were placed on these deepwater marine creatures, they revealed that they spend plenty of time in coastal waters. This has debilitating effects on their health since they are exposed to the high concentration of toxins and pollutants in the waters near shore, where humans have been dumping waste into. Through this, it was discovered that deepwater marine creatures that inhabit the oceans do not only swim in deep waters away from shores, but they migrate and move around to waters near cities where they are exposed to many polluted areas of water. This proves wrong the assertions of many scientists on this matter. That is, many marine wildlife that inhabit the open oceans do not only live in waters far out from shorelines but can swim and spend a significant amount of time in shallow coastal waters. This was a new discovery made from a study that looked into the habits of marine animals and how their location impacts their health.

Through a multitude of scientific findings, it is revealed that individual chemicals and mixtures can have immense negative impacts and that some can bring more severe repercussions by increasing in quantity. The systemic materials from the chemistry industry have the potential to impose harm on a wide scope of wildlife and components in the environment. For example, Mercury as an individual chemical can enter an aquatic ecosystem in a small amount, but when brought up on the food chain, stores of mercury will increase multiple times to qualities much greater than what was introduced to the ecosystem originally. Additionally discovered, a wider variety of chemicals introduced in an area can amount to more dangerous threats and hazards. This should be changed by regulating safety in chemistry by the degree of impact chemicals and their more lethal combinations impose, along with their ability to increase when being consumed in the food chain.

Many solutions to remedy the issue and mitigate harm can be delineated and employed in a facilitated manner. It is crucial to be aware of and bear in mind what we introduce to the environment and make use of. This will include being more prudent of what we are using in our households, businesses, on production lines, or farmland that can become deleterious after usage. Having more awareness regarding this can also limit the number of harmful chemicals we introduce to our own bodies. From augmenting knowledge of synthetic materials and chemicals, we will know what products to support and to boycott in our households. The ultimate endeavour is to limit the most synthetic chemical usage in homes. With regards to the pursuit of deterring harmful effects in marine ecosystems, something that can be carried out collectively by people and communities is focusing aquatic cleanup efforts in areas that are most affected or the most concentrated in the harmful runoff, such as coastal areas or rivers that contain the highest levels of industrial discharges. Another starting point for this type of cleanup is in areas of water where the most marine animals approach to feed. Water cleanup plans should function under the level of precedence of the water. These are only general examples of the various acts that can be carried out in the effort to specifically decrease the amount of harm imposed on our waters and marine wildlife and remedy the situation with water pollution. As a society we should play a part in investing more in chemical safety which would be investing more into the safety of our planet as a whole, ensuring the continued prosperity and wellbeing of the earth.