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Polluting Our Environment

This worksheet looks at pollution and how organisms and the environment are affected by it.

Key stage:  KS 3

Curriculum topic:  Biology: Interactions and Interdependencies

Curriculum subtopic:  Relationships in an Ecosystem

Difficulty level:  

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QUESTION 1 of 10

No matter where you look - on the TV, in the newspapers, on the internet - pollution is a big issue. Many people saying that we are killing the planet, fossil fuels are running out and we drive too many cars. So, what exactly are we doing to the environment?
 
 
Air Pollution   


Smoke billowing out of factory chimneys and pouring out of car exhausts is usually what comes to mind when we think of air pollution. It is, however, extremely dangerous, as many chemicals that pollute the air are invisible.

What causes it?

Air pollution can result from both human and natural actions. Natural events that pollute the air include forest fires, volcanic eruptions and the decomposition of organic material. Natural air pollution, however, is nowhere near as common as the pollution caused by us. 
Humans can cause air pollution through burning fossil fuels, manufacturing emissions from factories and farming chemicals such as fertilisers (some household cleaning products can also lead to air pollution).

Why should we care?

Air pollution can affect health. Breathing in harmful chemicals such as benzene or vinyl chloride in the air can lead to cancer, birth defects and damage to the lungs, brain and nerves.  

It can also affect the environment by causing acid rain, and forming other compounds in the atmosphere that can destroy trees, crops, farms and animals.


 
Water Pollution   
 

Water pollution is a big problem, as water makes up over 70% of the Earth's surface and is essential for the survival of all living things.

What causes it?

Water pollution can occur from a variety of things, such as farming materials (like fertilisers and pesticides) being washed into water supplies; harmful chemicals in the air dissolving in the water; oil spillages and the dumping of toxic waste. Even the dumping of household waste in our water can lead to a build-up of micro-organisms that will deplete the oxygen in the water, killing most of the natural aquatic life. 

Why should we care?

Water pollution can lead to the dead of many aquatic species, which can have a huge impact on various food chains. 

Life threatening dieases such as hepatitis and cholera can be spread through contaminated drinking water and seafood.


 
Detecting Pollution    
 

Both air and water pollution are a huge problem, and it is essential that we know the difference between safe and unsafe air and water. 

As well as using air monitoring systems in large cities to keep track of pollution levels, there are other, more natural ways of detecting pollution. 

Lichen, for example, are plants that are natural indicators of air pollution. Certain types of Lichen will only grow under certain conditions, for example.:

  • bushy lichens need really clean air
  • leafy lichens can survive a small amount of air pollution
  • crusty lichens can survive in more polluted air

 

Other Natural indicators can be used for water as well:

  • Mayfly larva are only found in clean water
  • Freshwater shrimp can be found in water with low pollution levels
  • Sludgeworms are found water with very high pollution levels

 

Reducing Pollution   

It is essential that we all do our bit to help reduce pollution. The government has set out plans to reduce pollution by the use of more clean alternative energies - such as solar and wind power - and to encourage people to drive less and fly less. Recycling and re-using things can also help to reducing pollution levels.  

Is the following statement true or false?

 

All types of air pollution are visible and look like smoke. 

true

false

Is the following statement true or false?

 

Air pollution can be caused by natural activity.

true

false

Which of the following are natural activities that lead to air pollution? Tick two boxes.

burning fossil fuels

forest fires

factory emissions

volcano eruptions

snow

Roughly how much of the Earth's surface is covered in water?

~20%

~50%

~70%

~99%

Which of the following can cause water pollution? Tick any that apply.

farming products, such as pesticides

dumping of toxic waste

dumping of household waste

rain

Which of the following can be used as a natural air quality monitor?

worms

oak trees

lichen

lichee

There are three different types of lichen that can grow on trees:

 

   
 bushy lichen leafy lichen crusty lichen

 

Which type of lichen would you expect to see in a secluded forest in the countryside, several miles away from any roads and buildings? 

bushy lichen

leafy lichen

crusty lichen

There are three different types of lichen that can grow on trees:

 

   
 bushy lichen leafy lichen crusty lichen

 

Which type of lichen would you expect to see on a tree in a park in London? 

bushy lichen

leafy lichen

crusty lichen

There are many natural indicators for water pollution. Which of the following would you expect to find in very polluted waters?

sludgeworm

mayfly larvae

freshwater shrimp

How can mayfly larvae be used to indicate levels of pollution?

They are only found on very polluted waters.

They are only found in very clean waters.

  • Question 1

Is the following statement true or false?

 

All types of air pollution are visible and look like smoke. 

CORRECT ANSWER
false
EDDIE SAYS
Most air pollution is, in fact, invisible. This makes it all the more dangerous.
  • Question 2

Is the following statement true or false?

 

Air pollution can be caused by natural activity.

CORRECT ANSWER
true
EDDIE SAYS
There are, in fact, many natural activities that can lead to air pollution. The majority of air pollution however is caused by human activity.
  • Question 3

Which of the following are natural activities that lead to air pollution? Tick two boxes.

CORRECT ANSWER
forest fires
volcano eruptions
EDDIE SAYS
Forest fires can lead to a build up of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and volcano eruptions release sulphur dioxide, which contributes to acid rain.
  • Question 4

Roughly how much of the Earth's surface is covered in water?

CORRECT ANSWER
~70%
EDDIE SAYS
Approximately 70% of the Earth's surface is covered in water. This is why water pollution can be so damaging.
  • Question 5

Which of the following can cause water pollution? Tick any that apply.

CORRECT ANSWER
farming products, such as pesticides
dumping of toxic waste
dumping of household waste
rain
EDDIE SAYS
All of the above can cause water pollution. Farming products can easily drain into streams and rivers; toxic waste can kill aquatic life; household waste can lead to oxygen depletion which, in turn, kills aquatic life and the rain, if too acidic, can also harm sea life.
  • Question 6

Which of the following can be used as a natural air quality monitor?

CORRECT ANSWER
lichen
EDDIE SAYS
Lichen is used as an air quality monitor as certain types of lichen will only grow under certain air conditions.
  • Question 7

There are three different types of lichen that can grow on trees:

 

   
 bushy lichen leafy lichen crusty lichen

 

Which type of lichen would you expect to see in a secluded forest in the countryside, several miles away from any roads and buildings? 

CORRECT ANSWER
bushy lichen
EDDIE SAYS
Bushy lichen only grows on very clean air.
  • Question 8

There are three different types of lichen that can grow on trees:

 

   
 bushy lichen leafy lichen crusty lichen

 

Which type of lichen would you expect to see on a tree in a park in London? 

CORRECT ANSWER
crusty lichen
EDDIE SAYS
Crusty lichen is the only type of lichen that can grows in very polluted areas such as London.
  • Question 9

There are many natural indicators for water pollution. Which of the following would you expect to find in very polluted waters?

CORRECT ANSWER
sludgeworm
EDDIE SAYS
Sludgeworms are found in water with very high pollution levels.
  • Question 10

How can mayfly larvae be used to indicate levels of pollution?

CORRECT ANSWER
They are only found in very clean waters.
EDDIE SAYS
Mayfly larvae are only found in very clean water, so they can be used to indicate that there is no pollution in that water.
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