• What Are the Most Polluting Industries? - Construction

Air Monitoring

What Are the Most Polluting Industries? - Construction

Jan 29 2022

Anyone who has ever lived in the vicinity of a building site will not be surprised to learn that construction is one of the most polluting industries in a variety of different senses. The obvious impact of the sector is the emissions that it entails, which are significant enough on their own. However, it’s also responsible for consuming a substantial quantity of resources and generating a huge amount of waste, as well.

For those urban dwellers among us, it might seem as though construction is simply an unavoidable part of everyday city life. However, the rate of construction in recent decades has surpassed anything that has gone before it, meaning the current trajectory is neither healthy nor sustainable in the long run.

Many-pronged pollution

The headline when it comes to construction industry pollution is undoubtedly going to be its impact upon the airways around the site in question. The air quality at construction sites and demolitions is infamous for its high concentration of pollutants, endangering the respiratory health of those who live, work and pass nearby. As an industry, it’s responsible for almost a quarter (23%) of all air pollution on the planet.

But besides emitting a variety of different contaminants into the air, construction also damages the planet in other ways, too. It’s responsible for generating half of all waste which goes to landfill, while it can also be held accountable for 40% of contamination of drinking water sources. Of course, the sound of a pneumatic drill can be a rude wake-up call for anyone living next to a site – and that’s just one element of the noise pollution that the industry creates, too.

Resource consumption

As well as emitting all sorts of contaminants into our environment, construction also has a ravenous appetite for raw materials and precious resources. Incredibly, the industry comprises half of all natural material extraction activities in the world, as well as one quarter of timber and one sixth of freshwater supplies. That’s the price of progress.

And what about its footprint after job is complete? Construction is also responsible for producing one quarter of the waste created around the world, the vast majority of which cannot be recycled and is therefore destined for landfill. Clearly, it’s an industry with desperately poor environmental credentials.

How can we improve the situation?

Unfortunately, there’s very little that the individual consumer can do to affect the situation. Instead, it falls to construction companies to face up to their environmental obligations and governments to take them to task when they don’t. While there are certain strides being taken towards more energy-efficient buildings and more sustainable means of construction, there remains much work ahead.

If you’re really committed to making your mark, you can campaign against construction projects which do not prioritise environmentalism and sustainability as a core part of their planning. This especially includes those which will clear forested lands or other areas of natural biodiversity, since the knock-on effect of the construction will reach myriad ecosystems and lifeforms.

If you have a particular interest in the emissions facet of industrial pollution, the upcoming CEM Conference in March is set to take place virtually and will cover the topic in-depth.


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