How Does Human Waste Affect the Environment?

Human waste contaminates the soil, air and water with toxins, chemicals and disease-causing bacterial agents. Human waste, including both organic and synthetic waste substances, can quickly threaten the surrounding environment by introducing foreign substances and chemicals to streams, rivers, soils and the air. As human populations grow, so too does the consumption of goods, and in turn, the generation of waste products rapidly multiplies.

According to the National Institutes of Health, human waste poses a potential hazard to the health of human communities and natural habitats when not properly transported, disposed of, managed, treated and stored. One negative impact of human waste is the risk of surface water contamination, which is caused by liquid and solid waste products that find their way into water bodies. The addition of foreign substances, such as chemicals, medical waste and fertilizers, can change the chemical composition of water and alter the surrounding ecosystem. Soil contamination occurs from the leaching of hazardous chemicals into dirt, which is absorbed by plants and vegetables, and transmits to other organisms that eat those products, including humans. Lastly, waste that accumulates in the atmosphere causes smog and reduces air quality and creates health risks for living organisms.