Difference Between Organic and Inorganic Pollutants

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Water is one of the most essential ingredients for life. We just can’t do without it. And when we say that water is necessary for human life, we mean clean, safe, and healthy water.

However, it’s devastating to know that not everyone gets clean water. Well, some people actually think that they are taking clean water just because it appears clean to the eye.

That water that seems clean could be full of organic and inorganic pollutants that can cause serious health complications.

In this article, we discuss the organic and inorganic pollutants found in water and their differences. Keep reading to learn more.

Quick Comparison Chart

FeatureOrganic pollutantsInorganic Pollutants
SourceHuman activitiesNatural, man-induced, or man-influenced.
Impact on human healthHighly toxicToxic
Impact on aquatic lifeKill aquatic lifeNegatively affect aquatic flora and fauna
Most toxicPersistent organic pollutantsArsenic
BiodegradationBiodegradableNon-biodegradable

What are Organic Water Pollutants?

Organic pollutants include pesticides, herbicides, and animal and plant tissues that cause adverse effects on the environment.

Trace levels of organic pollutants present in the water may result in harmful effects on human health.

Organic pollutants like dye, humid substances, petroleum, surfactants, phenolic compounds, and pharmaceuticals may produce toxic chemicals during water disinfection.

Among these pollutants, humic substances such as fluvic acid, huric or humic acid are abundant in farm wastewaters and should be removed before discharge.

Organic pollution also takes place when an excess of organic matter such as sewage enters the water. When organic matter increases in the water, the number of decomposers increases.

The decomposers multiply and use a lot of oxygen for their growth, which leads to oxygen depletion.

A lack of oxygen kills aquatic life.

It can also occur when inorganic pollutants like phosphates and nitrogen accumulate in aquatic ecosystems.

Emerging organic contaminants (EOCs) are hazardous compounds present in groundwater. They include pharmaceuticals, personal care products, veterinary products, food additives, and cosmetics, among others.

The sad part is that these EOCs have only been recently discovered in groundwater; thus, monitoring guidelines for their presence in drinking water are yet to be implemented.

The health implications to people by these EOCs are usually high since they have low biodegradability.

How Do Organic Pollutants Affect Your Health?

Synthetic organic compounds are used widely in different areas such as production, manufacturing processes, human and animal healthcare, and food preservation.

Sources responsible for releasing organic contaminants into the water include chemical industries, pesticides, and water treatment (chlorination), among other human activities.

The occurrence of these chemicals poses a severe hazard to human health.

Of these, the most toxic organic compounds is the persistent organic pollutants. These impurities are released into the environment through different human activities.

POPs are a significant concern because of their toxicity, persistence, bioaccumulation, and susceptibility. They are resistant to photolytic, biological, and chemical degradation.

Persistent organic pollutants are the world’s most harmful chemicals. They include polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT), and hexachlorobenzene, among other industrial by-products.

POPs accumulate in fatty tissue, increasing the risk of adverse health effects on infants.

Specific health effects of persistent organic pollutants include allergies, cancer, damage to the central and peripheral nervous system, hypersensitivity, disruption of the immune system, and reproductive disorders (1).

What are Inorganic Water Pollutants?

Inorganic pollutants are contaminants discharged by chemical and allied industries such as pharmaceuticals, refineries, and fertilizers.

Heavy metals and other inorganic pollutants, including metals, metal compounds, mineral acids, sulfates, and cyanides, have higher concentrations that can pollute water.

The inorganic pollutants constitute the greatest proportion of chemical impurities in drinking water. They have a disruptive effect on human as well aquatic life.

Although some inorganic water pollutants enter the water through a natural process, most enter the water through human activities.

Some even get into the water from the plumbing material through which the water is passed.

Inorganic pollutants are the most critical determinants of acceptability to the user affecting color, taste, and scale deposition on fittings and pipes.

They are also the most important for health, having both beneficial and harmful effects.

How Do Inorganic Pollutants Affect Your Health?

Inorganic impurities in your drinking water pose an acute health risk.

It can lead to severe health conditions such as liver damage, cancer, kidney disorders, tumors, bronchitis, damage to the nervous and circulatory systems, adult degenerative disorders, gastrointestinal disorders, and autoimmune disorders.

The source of inorganic contaminants may be natural or man-induced/influenced. They can also be associated with pollutants in the watershed or headwater for aquifers, introduced during water treatment, or added through your plumbing.

Some of the most common inorganic contaminants in drinking water include arsenic, antimony  ,barium, beryllium,chromium,cadmium,copper,cyanide,fluoride,mercury,lead,nitrates,selenium,thallium and turbidity.

Regulatory Bodies for Inorganic Water Pollutants

Inorganic impurities in drinking water are regulated under primary and secondary EPA Drinking Water Standards (2).

Other regulatory bodies include the Health Advisories and General Industry, Bottled Water Industry Standards, and the World Health Organization (WHO).

The U.S Food and Drug Administration also has some guidelines for some though not all might be in your drinking water.

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