Modern technology has changed people's lives. Most people now carry cell phones so they can call friends and family wherever they go. Cars and trucks have allowed people greater freedom to travel around the country, and home appliances have decreased the amount of time we spend completing household chores. While modern technology has given people more convenience, it also has harmed the environment.
Old electronics dumped into landfills can leach toxins such as lead, mercury and lithium into the environment. Electronics account for 2 percent to 5 percent of the trash that reaches American landfills every year, according to GreenCitizen, a California-based company that works to reduce electronic waste. An average computer screen contains up to 8 pounds of lead, which in excessive amounts can cause nerve disorders and joint pain in adults. High levels of lead in children has been associated with brain damage and anemia, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Cars harm the environment in a few ways. They run on oil, which sometimes leaks out. Oil spills can lead to water pollution and the destruction of plants and animals. Also, water runoff from oil processing plants to nearby rivers and streams can cause water pollution and harm ecosystems. When they are driven, cars emit toxins such as carbon monoxide and particulates such as soot. Air pollution from cars results in smog and holes in the ozone layer, and it may contribute to rising global temperatures.
Every time you flip a light switch, you use electricity. Electricity comes from sources such as coal, gas and oil. Burning coal releases particulates into the air. Coal mining also causes pollution. Runoff from the mines can contaminate surrounding watersheds, affecting drinking water quality and the health of ecosystems. Power plants that burn oil also release air pollutants, such as carbon monoxide. Electric plants powered by oil also consume a lot of water. Water removed from lakes and rivers can effect the ecosystem. Natural gas must be extracted from the earth, which can also disrupt ecosystems.
Household appliances such as laundry machines and dishwashers make lives easier, but they also consume precious resources. Appliances require electricity and fossil fuels to run. Laundry machines and dishwashers use a lot of water, which can harm the ecosystems of streams and lakes, according to the National Geographic's Green Guide. Refrigerators and freezers contain fluorocarbons that contribute to the ozone layer depletion and global warming. Appliances that end up in landfills can leach hazardous materials into the environment and underlying watersheds.
- GreenCitizen: Improper Computer and Electronic Recycling Cause Harmful Effects
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: Medline Plus: Lead Poisoning
- American University: Trade Environment Database: Oil Production and Environmental Damage
- Maine Department of Environmental Protection: Bureau of Air Quality: Effects of Vehicle Pollution
- U.S. Department of Environmental Protection: Clean Energy: Natural Gas
- U.S. Department of Environmental Protection: Safe Disposal of Refrigerated Household Appliances: Frequently Asked Questions
- Ryan McVay/Digital Vision/Getty Images