Environmental Chemistry

Water Pollutants – Lists, Effects, Examples

Water pollution is a very damaging problem which the world is facing now. It happens when water pollutants like untreated waste and all release into the water bodies. Thereby, damaging our water bodies and dropping the quality of water. When the water gets polluted, it can destroy plants and animals. Not only does it affect the plants and animals inhabiting the water but also human beings and other organisms who consume this water. Thus, these water pollutants are very damaging and need to be managed properly.

List of Water Pollutants

We can mainly divide the water pollutants into four types which are

  • Pathogens
  • Organic materials
  • Inorganic compounds
  • Macroscopic pollutants

water pollutants


When we say pathogen, we refer to bacteria, viruses, protozoa and more. For instance, bacteria are a very common pathogen found in water. However, when the amount of bacteria starts increasing, then it can heavily contaminate the water. The two most common pathogenic bacteria include coliform and E Coli bacteria.

The other pathogens can be detected with the help of coliforms as they exist in the environment within a safe limit. But, if and when the number starts multiplying, they can pose a great threat to the health of our environment. Similarly, when there is E Coli present in the water, it means human or animal waste has made the water unclean.

Organic Material

Organic materials are made up of molecules with carbon in them. MTBE (methyl tert-butyl) is quite a common volatile organic chemical. We used to use MTBE as an air-cleaning gas additive earlier. However, it was banned later but the time to erase it completely from water is quite long.

Similarly, the water which contains organic materials can result in deadly diseases like tumors in the testicles, leukemia, thyroid glands and kidneys, lymphoma, and more.

Inorganic Material

While inorganic materials might not be that harmful in small absorptions, but when they mix in the water, they can be dangerous water pollutants. For instance, heavy metals including copper, arsenic, barium, mercury, zinc, mercury and more are inorganic materials.

It can be caused due to leaching from waste disposal, industrial accidents or even increased levels of human activities. Moreover, this type of water pollution causes very austere health problems not only in humans but other organisms as well. Similarly, if it is found in higher concentrations, it can be very deadly too.

Macroscopic Pollutants

These types of pollutants are very easy to spot in the water due to their large size and visibility. The most common example of this is the trash including plastic waste that ends up in the water. As plastic does not decompose, humans dump it in water illegally.

Due to their non-biodegradable nature, they end up collecting in oceans and other water bodies. This is a very severe problem causing the ‘great pacific garbage patch’ which can be compared to the size of France.

Similarly, other types of these pollutants are small plastic pellets, metal, pieces of wood, shipping containers, shipwrecks and more.

However, we need to understand that we can manage the disposal of these pollutants easily. It is not only destroying our aquatic ecosystems but also contaminating the water greatly. Everyone must come together to take strict action to save mankind and our earth.

Questions on Water Pollutant

Question– Which of the following is not a pathogen?

A. Bacteria
B. Barium
C. Protozoa
D. Virus

Answer– The correct answer is option B. Barium is not a pathogen but it is an inorganic material.

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