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    Human Impacts on the Environment: Geology Essay

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    Physical changes in the land, soil, water, and air, associated with industrialization, directly and indirectly, affect the biological environment.

    Direct impacts include deaths of plants, animals, or people, caused by mining activity or contact with toxic soil or water from mines. Indirect impacts include changes in nutrient cycling, total biomass, species diversity, and eco-system stability due to alterations in groundwater or surface water availability or Water resources are particularly vulnerable to degradation even if drainage is controlled and sediment pollution reduced. Surface drainage is often altered at mine sites, and runoff from precipitation may infiltrate waste material, leaching out trace elements and minerals. Trace elements leached from mining wastes and concentrated in water, soil, or plants may be toxic, causing diseases in people and other animals who drink the water, eat the plants, or use the soil.

    These potentially harmful trace elements include cadmium, cobalt, copper, lead, iron, Groundwater may also be polluted by mining operations when waste comes into contact with slow-moving subsurface waters. Surface-water infiltration or groundwater movement through mining waste piles causes the leaching of sulfide materials that may pollute groundwater. The polluted groundwater may eventually seep into streams to pollute surface water. Groundwater problems are particularly troublesome because reclamation of polluted groundwater isAn an example of an area where trace elements have affected a large part of the population is in Japan.

    An increased amount of cadmium was released into the ZintsuRiver Basin near the end of World War I. At this time the Japanese industrial complex was damaged and good industrial-waste disposal practices were largely ignored. Mining operations for cadmium dumped mining wastes into rivers. The cadmium influx occurred in estuarine waters and in sediments after the intake of industrial wastes. Farmers then used this contaminated water downstream for domestic and agricultural purposes.

    This intake of cadmium by human beings caused a chronic disease within the Japanese population known as Itai-Itai. The name Itai-Itaisuits the disease because it is Japanese for ouch-ouch. Itai-Itai is painful and crippling. It attacks the bones causing them to become so thin and brittle that they break many solutions and experiments have been tried to find reason and absolution of cadmium influx, but none has given us a perfect resolution of the cause.

    Such experiments studying the bones and tissue of victims were quite revealing. The bones and tissue were found to contain large concentrations of zinc, lead, and cadmium. The study of rats showed scientists interesting results. When rats were fed 100ppm of cadmium they lost about 3 percent of their total bone tissue. Rats fed amounts of cadmium plus other trace elements such as lead copper and zinc lost about 33percent of their total bone tissue. Cadmium in seafood is another problem in Japan scientists were not surprised when they found out that cadmium has deleterious effects on most, if not all, marine species tested.

    Histopathological effects of cadmium have been studied in two species of marine finfish. However, no scientist has reported histopathological effects in any invertebrates. Invertebrates are more sensitive to the metal than are finfish. There are few reports on the rates of accumulation of cadmium in marine species, and the only investigations we are aware of are studies on the flux of cadmium through mussels, shrimp, and euphausids. This lack of information caused us to undertake the present study to :(1) determine rates of accumulation and localization of cadmium in tissues of shrimp; (2) describe the histological effects of cadmium in shrimp, and (3) compare the accumulation of cadmium in shrimp from meta incorporated in food with that of cadmium administered directly in water. Measurement of heavy-metal concentrations in the JapansZintsu River Basin showed that although the water samples generally contained less than 1 ppm cadmium and 50 ppm zinc, these metals are selectively concentrated in the sediment and even more highly concentrated in plants.

    One set of data for five samples shows an average of 6 ppm cadmium in polluted soils. In-plant roots, this average increased to1250, and in the harvested rice it was 125 ppm. As of late scientists have been putting their energy and time into research more than activating ways to quickly and efficiently solve the problem. Some structures like specially constructed ponds have been made to collect polluted runoff from mines have been made and do help, but they cannot be expected to eliminate all problems. Groundwater problems are particularly troublesome because reclamation of polluted groundwater is very difficult and expensive.

    So, until scientists have fully researched the effect of trace elements in our geologic planet our society will just have to look towards the future.

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