(Deep Dive Into Environment & Pollutants – Lets Protect the Planet And People In It!!!)

Environmental Social and Governance (ESG) is of increasing importance for companies in the global supply chain. Post August's IPCC Report on global warming & climate change it's become more imperative to control greenhouse gases & pollutants in an aggressive manner. As part of corporate responsibility & sustainability initiatives, Indian companies would need to incorporate pro-active steps in monitoring & reducing various pollutants in their supply chain. Below is a synopsis of the pollutants and an analysis of them to help professionals design programs to deter further climatic catastrophes & irreversible changes.



1. Global Treaties On Environment & Its Effect

2. Laws Related To Treaties

3. Indian Laws on Hazardous Substances, FDA & FSSAI which Constitute Control Mechanisms on Pollutants

4. Air Pollution

5. Solid Waste Pollution

6. Water Pollution

7. Toxic Waste

8. Thermal Pollution

9. Petroleum Oil Pollution

10. Groundwater and Oceans

11. pH of Water And Its Effects on the Environment

12. Sediments

13. Chemicals in Food & Drugs Which Act as Pollutants / Hazards if Ingested


1.1Montreal Protocol: Montreal Protocol was created to decrease the production and use of ozone depleting chemicals in order to minimize their abundance in the atmosphere and therefore protect the earth's delicate ozone layer. The first Montreal Protocol was signed on September 16, 1987, and went into effect on January 1, 1989. It is a historic record that has effectively decreased worldwide ozone-depleting substance production, consumption, and emissions.

1.2United Nation's Convention to Combat Desertification: The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), which was established in 1994, is the first legally enforceable international agreement that connects environment and development with long-term land management. The Parties to the Convention conduct technical meetings throughout the year and organize the Conferences of the Parties (COPs), every two years, to promote the Convention's goals and objectives and make progress in its implementation.

1.3Protocol on Sustainable Tourism: The Third Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Carpathian Convention, held in Bratislava, Slovak Republic, accepted the Protocol on Sustainable Tourism on May 27, 2011 to the Framework Convention on the Protection and Sustainable Development of the Carpathians. The Convention's primary objective is to enhance and facilitate the Parties' cooperation in the development of sustainable tourism in the Carpathians, thereby benefiting the current and future generations, alongside maintaining biodiversity, ecosystems, economic & social development.

1.4Protocol on Conservation and Sustainable Use of Biological and Landscape Diversity: On June 19, 2008, the Protocol on Conservation and Sustainable Use of Biological and Landscape Diversity was adopted to the Carpathians Convention on the Protection and Sustainable Development. The following are some of the general expectations from this protocol: development, harmonization, and implementation of relevant management plans aimed at achieving common standards for habitat and species protection and sustainable use; prevention of the introduction of invasive alien species that may threaten ecosystems, habitats, or species native to the Carpathians, their control, or eradication; development of invasive alien species control and eradication plans.

1.5Kyiv Protocol on Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers (PRTRs): On May 21, 2003, the Kyiv Protocol on Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers (PRTRs) was adopted, and it went into effect on October 8, 2009. The pollutant release and transfer registers is the international instrument which is legally binding. Its goal is to enhance public access to information by streamlining countrywide Pollutant Release and Transfer Registries (PRTRs).

1.6Aarhus Convention: The Convention was adopted on June 25, 1998 in Aarhus, Denmark and came into force on October 30, 2001. People have the right to obtain information, engage in decision-making, and pursue justice in environmental problems under the Convention. Its robust dual environmental and human rights safeguards can aid in the response to many of the world's concerns, ranging from climate change and biodiversity loss to air and water pollution, poverty alleviation, and security. It provides a robust foundation for governments to successfully involve the public in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its goals.

1.7International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC): IPPC is a 1951 multinational convention administered by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization with the goal of ensuring integrated, comprehensive measure to stop and regulate the introduction and spread of plant and plant product pests. The Convention covers the preservation of wild flora and plant products in addition to cultivated plants.

1.8United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change: The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) established on March 21, 1994, is an overarching framework for international cooperation to address the threat of climate change. It acknowledges that the climate system is a common resource whose equilibrium may be impacted by carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions from industry and other sources. The Convention's ultimate goal is to keep greenhouse gas levels stable at a level that prevents harmful anthropogenic (human-caused) influence with the global climate. According to the Convention, such a level should be reached in a reasonable amount of time to allow ecosystems to adjust naturally to climate change, to guarantee that food supply is not jeopardized, and to allow for long-term economic development.

1.9Convention on Biological Diversity: On the 5th of June 1992, during the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, the Convention was opened for signing the Rio "Earth Summit". It remained accessible for signatures until 4 June 1993, when 168 signatures were obtained. The Convention went into effect 90 days following the 30th ratification, on December 29, 1993. The major expectation from the Convention is as follows: preservation of biodiversity; the sustainable utilization of its components; and the fair and balanced distribution of benefits from biological resources.




Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act 1974

  • Hazardous waste from industries is termed as trade effluent – Section 2(k)

Environment (Protection) Act 1986

  • Section 6(2)(d) empowers the Central Government to make rules regarding hazardous substances. The following Rules are the exercise of this power by the Central Government.

E-Waste (Management) Rules 2016

  • Section 3(1)(t) defines the term "Extended Producer Responsibility" (EPR).
  • Under EPR, the producer of any electrical or electronic equipment is responsible for ensuring environmentally sound management of e-waste.
  • The producer may discharge this responsibility through: take-back systems, setting up collection centres, having agreed arrangements with authorized dismantlers or recyclers, etc.

Bio-Medical Waste (Management and Handling) Rules 2016

  • Schedule I : Expired or discarded medicines, ash from incineration of biomedical waste and residual or discarded chemical wastes

Plastic Waste Management Rules 2016

  • Rule 4 imposes conditions on those manufacturing, importing, distributing, selling and using carry bags, plastic sheets, covers made of plastic sheets, etc.
  • Rule 8 places additional responsibilities on the waste generator. He is required to (1) take steps to minimize generation of plastic waste and segregate plastic waste at source and (2) not litter plastic waste and ensure segregated storage of waste at source and hand over segregated waste to urban local body or gram panchayat or agencies appointed as registered waste pickers.
  • Rule 14 is applicable to retailers and street vendors and prohibits them from selling items in plastic covers not manufactured in accordance with the Rules.

Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016

  • Rule 4 provides for duties of every waste generator, including: segregation, proper disposal of sanitary waste, prohibition from throwing, burning or burying solid waste on public spaces, keeping suitable containers for storage of waste, etc.

Hazardous and Other Waste (Management and Transboundary Movement) Rules 2016

  • Paragraph 15 of Chapter III defines illegal traffic of hazardous wastes.
  • The other provisions of Chapter III give pre-requisites for import and export of hazardous wastes such as: prior informed consent, approval from the Ministry of Environment and other licenses and permissions.
  • However, there are no penal provisions to enforce the Rules against persons who illegally import and export hazardous wastes.

Manufacture, Storage and Import of Hazardous Chemicals Rules 1989

  • It applies to persons who occupy sites where industrial activity is carried out.
  • Rule 4 is relevant to industrial activities involving hazardous chemicals

Air pollution is caused by emission of chemicals, particulates, biological materials or other harmful substances. Emissions which cause air pollution may be released both by natural processes as well as by human activity. An air pollutant is a substance or material in the air that interferes with overall health and comfort of people and the stability of the food chain. Air pollutants can be classified as Primary and Secondary pollutants.

Primary pollutants are directly emitted from burning of fossil fuels, volcanic eruption and factories. Primary pollutants include Sulphur oxides, Nitrogen oxides, Carbon oxides, Particulate Matter, Methane, Ammonia, Chlorofluorocarbons, Toxic metals etc.

  • Nitrogen oxides are emitted during high-temperature fossil fuel combustion. In high concentrations, nitrogen oxides can lead to inflammation of the airways.
  • Sulphur oxides are caused by volcanic eruptions and certain industrial processes involving combustion of coal and petroleum. When sulphur oxides react with nitrogen oxides, it produces harmful acid rain.
  • Carbon monoxide is majorly sourced from vehicular emissions and incomplete combustion of natural gases, coal or wood.
  • Carbon dioxide enters the atmosphere from improper vehicular combustion. Carbon dioxide can cause fatigue, headaches, and heart ailments. In some cases, carbon dioxide can be fatal.
  • Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are a type of outdoor air pollutant. They can be classified as methane (CH4) and non-methane (NM) VOC. Methane VOCs contributes significantly towards rapid global warming.
  • Ammonia is emitted mainly by activities in the agricultural sector.
  • Radioactive pollutants may originate either from radioactive minerals in the earth's crust or from man-made nuclear reactors, nuclear explosions, atomic energy industries, etc.
  • Waste heat and light pollution also belong to specific forms of atmospheric pollution, but they are not considered in detail in this chapter.  

Secondary pollutants enter the air when primary pollutants react with other primary pollutants or other naturally-occurring components. Common examples of secondary pollutants are ground-level ozone, Smog and Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs). Particulate Pollutants can be divided into primary and secondary particulate pollutants:

  • Particulate matter formed from gaseous primary pollutants (like sulphur dioxide) compounds in photochemical smog, i.e. smoke and fog. Smog can also be caused by vehicular and industrial emissions. Other primary particulate pollutants are ground-level ozone (O3) and Peroxyacetyl nitrate (PAN). Both are formed by nitrogen oxide and VOCs, caused by fossil fuel combustion.
  • Secondary particulate matter (PM) is formed in the atmosphere, as opposed to being emitted into the atmosphere. Secondary PMs are formed from gases like SO2, NOX, NH3and VOCs. Reactions between these gases and existing atmospheric elements form ammonium (NH4+), sulphate (SO4–2) and nitrate (NO3) compounds, which in turn for secondary inorganic aerosols.

4.1 Revised National Ambient Air Quality Standards

The Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF), Govt of India, vide gazette notification, G.S.R826 (E), dated 16.11.2009 have notified the National Ambient Air Quality Standards by amending the Environment (Protection) Rules 1986. The MoEF has prescribed different air quality standards for i) industrial areas, residential, rural and other areas, and ii) ecologically sensitive areas (as notified by the Central Govt.).

4.1.1Industrial, residential, rural and other areas à Over a year, the air can have a maximum of 50.0 µg/m3 SO2, 40.0 µg/m3 NO2, 60.0 µg/m3 particulate matter less than 10µm, 40.0 µg/m3 particulate matter less than 2.5 µm, 0.50 µg/m3 lead, 100.0 µg/m3 ammonia, 5.0 µg/m3 Benzene, 1.0 ng/m3 Benzo (a) pyrene, and 6.0 ng/m3 Arsenic. Over 8 hours, these areas should not have more than 2.0 mg/m3 Carbon and 100.0 µg/m3 Ozone. Every hour, these areas can have a maximum of 4.0 mg/m3 CO.

4.1.2Ecologically-sensitive areas à Annually, the air in these areas should not have more than 0 µg/m3 SO2 and 30.0 µg/m3 NO2. The parameters for other pollutants are the same as that of industrial, residential and rural areas.


Solid waste is a broad term for municipal/ domestic waste, industrial waste and hazardous wastes. The common causes for solid waste are overpopulation, urbanization, affluence which leads to overconsumption, and technology. Solid waste pollutes the air, water and soil, and can cause health hazards such as food and water contamination which leads to various diseases, water logging and mosquito breeding. Solid waste also impacts the environment by contaminating groundwater, aesthetic damage caused by littering, noxious fumes, etc.


Water pollution is the release of chemicals, microorganisms, radioactivity or heat into water bodies. Water pollution affects the quality and usability of water and inhibits the natural functioning of ecosystems. Domestic sewage is a primary source of pathogens and harmful microorganisms. If sewage is untreated, the oxygen content of water may be depleted. Lack of oxygen in water bodies may endanger fish and aquatic organisms, which need high levels of oxygen to survive. Moreover, nitrates and phosphates in sewage lead to rapid growth of algae, also known as eutrophication. Eutrophication also reduces the oxygen dissolved in water, thereby killing aquatic organisms in the water.


Toxic chemicals like Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs), chlordane, DDD, DDE, DDT, Chlorinated Dibenzo-p-dioxins (CDDs) and Dibenzofurans (CDFs) etc. arise from improperly disposed wastewater containing such chemicals, agricultural surface runoff containing chemical pesticides, and runoff from suburban lawns having similar chemicals. Such toxic waste is poisonous, radioactive, and explosive. It can cause cancer, birth defects, damage to chromosomes, and lead to overpopulation at the higher ends of the food chain.


Thermal pollution is essentially the discharge of heat into the air or water. Heat pollutes water by decreasing the solubility of oxygen in the water. Decreased oxygen levels in the water endangers valuable species of game fish. If such species of fish go extinct, it significantly alters the food web. The chief causes of thermal pollution are discharging of cooling water from power plants, industrial activities, release of cold water, chemical pollutants, waste from livestock dumped in the water, deforestation, soil erosion, geo-thermal activities, and unawareness among people.


Petroleum pollution includes oil from roadside parking lots and also accidental oil spills. One of the chemicals related to petroleum oil which causes pollution is polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which have multiple carbon rings and can also be quite persistent in the environment.


Groundwater may be polluted by dissolved chemicals, bacteria and viruses. These chemical contaminants come from untreated sewage, industrial waste, leachates from unlined municipal refuse landfills, mining, petroleum production and leakage from underground gasoline storage tanks.


pH stands for 'power of hydrogen', and measures the amount of free hydrogen and hydroxyl ions in water. Acidic water is higher on free hydrogen ions is acidic, whereas water that has higher free hydroxyl ions is basic. pH is determined on a scale between 0 and 14, where 7 is neutral pH level. Acidic water has a <7 pH level while alkaline water has a >7 pH level.

Water having different uses have different recommended pH levels. Drinking water and bathing water should ideally have a pH of 6.5-8.5. Water for wild life propagation and fisheries requires a similar pH level. Water for irrigation, industrial cooling and waste disposal may have pH levels of 6-8.5.

11.1Effects of pH level:

  • Lower pH level can facilitate the solubility of toxic heavy metals such as lead, cadmium, copper etc. in the water. The existence of such metals in the water affects aquatic life.
  • Aquatic organisms need water to be of a balanced pH (6.5 – 9.0). If the pH of water is too high or too low, the aquatic organisms will die.
  • Skewed pH levels also stress survival rates of animals. Toxic chemicals would be absorbed by acidic water, increasing the risk of absorption by aquatic life.
  • Water with unbalanced pH is also harmful to humans who drink this water i.e. when the pH values of water are greater than 11 or lower than 4, it can lead to skin and eye irritations. Whereas, water below 2.5 pH level can cause severe damage to skin and organ linings.
  • Slight changes in pH over a long term affect oxygen levels in oligotrophic water, leading to eutrophication.

Lower pH levels in water are majorly caused by CO2 emitted by photosynthesis, respiration and decomposition. Carbon dioxide though present in water in a dissolvable state, it can react with water to form carbonic acid (H2CO3), also known as acid rain. pH of water can also fluctuate due to natural influencers (carbon and limestone) and man-made influencers (mining, smelting, fossil fuel combustion, etc.).


Sediments are those materials (both organic and inorganic) that can be carried away by wind, water or ice, which mostly come from erosion and weathering, while organic sediment is typically detritus and decomposing material such as algae. Sediment can be as small as sand particles to large rocks. It can be either suspended, i.e. floating in the water or bedded, i.e. settled at the bottom of the water. Suspended sediment can be further classified into suspended sediment and suspended solids.

12.1Sediment Transport/ Sediment Load

Sediment transport is the carrying of organic and inorganic particles by water flows. Types of sediment load are i) bed load (at the bottom of the water flow), ii) suspended load (the sediment carried downstream by the water) and iii) wash load (the sediment load floating at the top of the flowing water).

Sediment transport is important since it builds aquatic habitats for spawning and benthic organisms. It also supplies nutrients and vegetation to ecosystems such as floodplains and marshes. It also restores coasts. Too little sediment inhibits habitat formation, deprivation of nutrient enrichments, death of ecosystems, physical changes to the terrain, coastline erosion, etc.

However, excess transport causes ecosystem instability, erosion (scour), build-up leading to eutrophication, disruption of natural aquatic migration, rise in water temperatures, smothering of fish eggs and larvae, alteration or blockage of water flow, and habitat degradation. The total maximum daily load (TMDL) is the recommended limit for sediment deposition.

Sediment may be contaminated by metals and persistent bio-accumulative toxics. Contaminated sediment is also harmful to aquatic, human and environmental health.

India has prescribed the following parameters for determining quality of water depending on the purpose for which the water is being used.

12.2Drinking water without conventional treatment should ideally have at least 6mg/l dissolved oxygen, maximum 2mg/l biochemical oxygen demand, 50 coliform organisms/100ml, 10 Hazen units color, 500 mg/l solids, 200 mg/l total hardness, calcium hardness, and magnesium hardness, 1.5 mg/l copper, 0.3mg/l Iron, 0.5 Manganese, 250 mg/l Chlorides, 400 mg/l sulphates, 20 mg/l nitrates, 1.5 g/l fluorides, 0.002 mg/l of phenolic compounds, 0.001 mg/l mercury, 0.01 mg/l Cadmium, Selenium and Lead, 0.05 g/l Arsenic, 0.05 mg/l Cyanide and Chromium, 15 mg/l Zinc, and 0.2 mg/l anionic detergents, and 1 mg/l Barium.

12.3Water for outdoor bathing should have at least 5 mg/l dissolved oxygen, maximum 3 mg/l biochemical oxygen, 500 mg/100 ml coliform organisms, 300 Hazen units color, 1.5 mg/l fluorides, 0.005 mg/l phenolic compounds, 0.2 mg/l arsenic, 0.05 mg/l Cyanide, and 1 mg/l anionic detergents.

12.4Drinking water after conventional treatment should have at least 4 mg/l dissolved oxygen, maximum 3 mg/l biochemical oxygen demand, 5,000 mg/100ml coliform organisms, 300 Hazen units color, 1,500 mg/l dissolved solids, 1.5 mg/l copper, 0.5 mg/l iron, 600 mg/l chlorides, 400 mg/l sulphates, 50 mg/l nitrates, 1.5 mg/l fluorides, 0.005 g/l phenolic compounds, 0.01 mg/l cadmium, 0.05 mg/l selenium, 0.2 mg/l arsenic, 0.05 mg/l cyanide, 0.1 mg/l lead, 15 mg/l lead, 0.05 mg/l chromium and 1 mg/l anionic detergents.

12.5Water for propagation of wildlife and fisheries requires minimum 4 mg/l dissolved oxygen and maximum 1.2 mg/l free ammonia.
















Methyl Mercury










  1. Total Aflatoxins
  2. Aflatoxin B1
  3. Aflatoxin M1
  4. Ochratoxin A
  5. Patulin
  6. Deoxynivalenol


  1. Agaric acid
  2. Hydrocyanic acid
  3. Hypericine
  4. Saffrole


13.4.1 Polychlorinated biphenyls (Sum of PCB28, PCB52, PCB101, PCB138, PCB153 and PCB180)

13.4.2 Polychlorinated biphenyls (Sum of PCB28, PCB52, PCB101, PCB138, PCB153 and PCB180)

13.4.3 Benzo(a)pyrene


2,4-Dichlorophenoxy Acetic Acid



Bispyribac Sodium





Alpha cypermethrin


Alpha naphthyl Acetic Acid







Carbofuran (sum of carbofuran and 3-hydroxy carbofuran expressed as carbofuran)




Carfentrazone Ethyl



Sum of benomyl and carbendazim expressed as carbendazim

Cartap Hydrochloride

Bensulfuron Methyl


Beta Cyfluthrin


The full list can be found from the Food Safety and Standards (Contaminants, Toxins and Residues) Regulations 2011 –

https://www.fssai.gov.in/upload/uploadfiles/files/Compendium_Contaminants_Regulations_20_08_2020.pdf - It gives the maximum acceptable quantity of these chemicals in food items, exceeding which the chemicals would be hazardous.

This article is for information purpose only. It is not intended to constitute, and should not be taken as legal advice, or a communication intended to solicit or establish commercial motives with any. The firm shall not have any obligations or liabilities towards any acts or omission of any reader(s) consequent to any information contained herein. The readers are advised to consult competent professionals in their own judgment before acting on the basis of any information provided hereby.