How Does Pollution Affect Plants & Animals?

Updated April 17, 2017

Pollution to the water, air and soil is harmful to plants and animals. It causes injury and death to animals and inhibits the growth of plant species. The toxic chemicals taken in by plants and animals can also be passed along to humans in a process called bioaccumulation.


The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) notes that ground-level ozone pollution is more damaging to plants than all other air pollutants combined. When ozone enters leaves, it can cause bronzing and reddening of the leaves. Severe exposure can result in necrosis, or death, of the affected plant. Research indicates that crops such as soybean, cotton and peanuts are especially sensitive to ozone pollution.


Animals are often exposed to pollution when humans dispose of waste in their habitats, notes the Chintimini Wildlife Rehabilitation Center on its website. For example, animals get tangled in plastic six-pack soda rings, or poisoned by motor oil that gets into waterways. When animals lower on the food chain are exposed to pollutants, those pollutants are passed on to animals higher on the food chain (bioaccumulation).

Prevention & Solution

Reducing the amount of chemical pollution released into the water, soil and air is the easiest way to prevent harm to plants and animals. The Chintimini Wildlife Rehabilitation Center suggests that citizens take steps such as contacting local recycling centres to dispose of toxic chemicals, and using biological methods such as ladybirds, instead of traditional pesticides, to control pests in the yard or garden.

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About the Author

A.K. Jayne has written and edited print and online content since 2006. In addition, she has legal assistant/paralegal experience in areas including wills and trusts and family law. Her articles have appeared in the "Philadelphia Inquirer," "New Jersey Record" and "Burlington County Times." Jayne completed an Associated Press internship and is an alumna of Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Public Communications.