Almost all industries generate some level of pollution, either directly or indirectly, but some industries are particularly famous for the high levels of pollution which they generate. Because pollution standards and statistics are different around the world, it is difficult to pin down the top polluters worldwide, but it is possible to compile a list of likely suspects. Many of these industries have been targeted through government and citizen initiatives and asked to clean up their act.
Several different kinds of pollution can be generated by various industries. Many people think of air pollution when they hear the world “pollute.” Air pollution involves the release of chemicals and particulates into the air, and it can cause problems varying from difficulty breathing to contamination of crops. Water pollution involves the release of pollutants into the water, while soil pollution occurs when pollutants penetrate the soil.
Chemical manufacturing generates a great deal of pollution. Fertilizer companies, the pharmaceutical industry, and companies which manufacture pesticides all pollute copiously around the world. In addition to generating pollution at their factories, many of these industries cause indirect pollution when their products are not managed safely, as for example when people flush antibiotics, or when fertilizer runoff enters a waterway.
The manufacturing and processing of metals, cement, and paper is also a major culprit in global pollution. These industries pollute both the air and water in many regions of the world, and they cause environmental degradation by logging and mining. Mining can cause additional pollution issues, as harsh chemicals are often used to process materials at mines, and these chemicals often wind up in the environment.
Oil refining is another major source of pollution, and industries which rely on fossil fuel also pollute, including coal fired power plants, airlines, and the automobile industry. Some consumer goods such as leather and sugar are associated with high levels of pollution due to the way in which they are processed and manufactured. The construction and waste management industries generate a number of pollutants as well, ranging from particulates at construction sites to biohazards released into the air and water at waste management facilities.
So-called “factory farming” has also been fingered as an industry which is known to pollute. Farm animals generate a great deal of methane, especially when they are raised in high volume, and their excretions are also a potential source of pollution. When containment facilities for manure burst or fail, pollutants can be released on a large scale into the surrounding environment.