Farms a major source of air pollution, study finds

Farms a major source of air pollution, study finds
Fumes from nitrogen-rich fertilizers and animal waste combine in the air with combustion emissions to form solid particles in the air. These aerosols outweigh all other human sources of fine-particulate air pollution in much of the United States, Europe, Russia and China, according to new research. Credit: Dirk Ingo Franke via Wikimedia Commons.

Emissions from farms outweigh all other human sources of fine-particulate air pollution in much of the United States, Europe, Russia and China, according to new research. The culprit: fumes from nitrogen-rich fertilizers and animal waste combine in the air with combustion emissions to form solid particles, which constitute a major source of disease and death, according to the new study.

The good news is if combustion decline in coming decades, as most projections say, fine-particle pollution will go down even if fertilizer use doubles as expected, according to the new study published in Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union.

Agricultural air pollution comes mainly in the form of ammonia, which enters the air as a gas from heavily fertilized fields and livestock waste. It then combines with pollutants from combustion—mainly nitrogen oxides and sulfates from vehicles, power plants and industrial processes—to create tiny , or aerosols, no more than 2.5 micrometers across, about 1/30 the width of a human hair.

Aerosols can penetrate deep into lungs, causing heart or pulmonary disease. A 2015 study in the journal Nature estimates they cause at least 3.3 million deaths each year globally, and a recent study in Geophysical Research Letters found they cause over 500,000 annual deaths in India alone.

Many regional studies, especially in the United States, have shown agricultural pollution to be a prime source of fine-particulate precursors, but the new study is one of the first to look at the phenomenon worldwide and to project future trends. The study's results show more than half the aerosols in much of the eastern and central United States come from farming.

"This is not against fertilizer—there are many places, including Africa, that need more of it," said Susanne Bauer, an atmospheric scientist at Columbia University's Center for Climate Systems Research and NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York and lead author of the study. "We expect population to go up, and to produce more food, we will need more fertilizer."

The fact that agricultural emissions must combine with other pollutants to make aerosols is , according to Bauer. Most projections say tighter regulations, cleaner sources of electricity and higher-mileage vehicles will cut industrial emissions enough by the end of this century that farm emissions will be starved of the other ingredients necessary to create aerosols, she said.

"You might expect air quality would decline if go up, but this shows it won't happen, provided the emissions from combustion go down," said Fabien Paulot, an atmospheric chemist with Princeton University and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration who was not involved in the study. That means pollutants other than ammonia should probably be targeted for abatement, he said.

Johannes Lelieveld, lead author of the 2015 Nature study, disagreed. "One should be cautious about suggesting that food production could be increased" without increasing pollution, because that "critically depends" on the assumption that societies will successfully curb industrial emissions, he said. Lelieveld pointed out that even with recent reductions in industrial pollution, most nations, including the United States, still have large areas that exceed the World Meteorological Organization's recommended maximum of particulate matter.

If future industrial emissions do go down, much farm-produced ammonia will end up in Earth's troposphere, roughly 2 to 10 kilometers (1 to 6 miles) above the surface, Bauer said. There, lightning and other natural processes may also help create fine particulates, but most of these particles would be trapped by raindrops and harmlessly removed from the atmosphere, she said.


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Agricultural ammonia emissions disrupt Earth's delicate nitrogen balance

More information: Geophysical Research Letters, DOI: 10.1002/2016GL068354
Journal information: Geophysical Research Letters , Nature

Citation: Farms a major source of air pollution, study finds (2016, May 16) retrieved 26 June 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2016-05-farms-major-source-air-pollution.html
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May 16, 2016
Agribusiness has polluted the Central Valley of California until it is like Houston. I was born there, and could see the coast range and the snow-capped Sierras from our town, until a Federal District Judge (my neighbor), ruled that the 160-Acre limit on subsidized water was really intended to let Big Business get the money.

May 16, 2016
Agribusiness has polluted the Central Valley of California until it is like Houston. I was born there, and could see the coast range and the snow-capped Sierras from our town, until a Federal District Judge (my neighbor), ruled that the 160-Acre limit on subsidized water was really intended to let Big Business get the money.


I bet you eat well.

May 16, 2016
Everything grows here, but I am not in the polluted Valley anymore.

Comments from someone not familiar with the issue and topography and climate and pollution are of no value.

May 16, 2016
Agribusiness has polluted the Central Valley of California until it is like Houston. I was born there, and could see the coast range and the snow-capped Sierras from our town, until a Federal District Judge (my neighbor), ruled that the 160-Acre limit on subsidized water was really intended to let Big Business get the money
Hey george kamburoff what a coincidence I was just reminiscing in another thread about how you originally lied about this very subject.

And here you are lying about it again.

Dried manure, which you called volatile solids (a lie), was the major constituent of high air pollution in the central valley, is what you said. And you claim to know this for a fact because you claimed to have an MS in environmental mgt.

So I presented you with a list of air pollutants in the central valley and your powdered cow shit wasn't even on it.

And others presented conclusive evidence that your MS was a lie as well.

Remember?

May 16, 2016
Comments from someone not familiar with the issue and topography and climate and pollution are of no value
Comments from confirmed liars and psychopaths are much worse than useless.

May 16, 2016
Yet another argument to reduce emissions since that would mitigate the problem substantively

May 16, 2016
A good Nutrient Management Program is essential for farms today. The use of anaerobic digestion can reduce the contamination while producing energy needed by the dairies or other sites. The two of them together can significantly mitigate the problem, since nutrients can be recycled through the digesters.

May 16, 2016
This whole article is so hamstrung by trying not to say what they're not supposed to say, that I can't figure out what they actually ARE saying.

1) Where do these "industrial emissions" come from? Is it carbon soot? Is it an aerosol of some aromatic? Is it carbon dioxide? Is it NO3?

2) WHICH fertilizers is it mixing with? Are there alternatives?

It looks like someone wanted to write this paper but was told that they couldn't say certain things or they would offend certain people. People will be offended anyway. Just report what they did and what they discovered and let the chips fall where they may.

May 16, 2016
From the article:

Agricultural air pollution comes mainly in the form of ammonia, which enters the air as a gas from heavily fertilized fields and livestock waste. It then combines with pollutants from combustion—mainly nitrogen oxides and sulfates from vehicles, power plants and industrial processes—to create tiny solid particles, or aerosols, no more than 2.5 micrometers across, about 1/30 the width of a human hair.

May 16, 2016
In short, emissions from unsustainable fossil fertilizers and factory ranches

Also, farms are not ranches. Animals on ranches. Plants on farms

May 16, 2016
Koch: No.

May 16, 2016
Old McDonald had a farm
EIEIOOOOO
And on that farm he had some....broccoli
EIEIOOOOO
With a (wait WTF sound does a broccoli make?)

May 16, 2016
The only answer to this atrocity is to prevent/ban all AGWites from eating. First, it will eliminate about 97% of scientists apparently. That will leave the 3% who actually think. Secondly it will eliminate a bunch of assholes. And C) we wouldn't have to hear all this Chicken Little crap any longer.

May 17, 2016
Finally, a denier accepts that there is a consilience of evidence constituting 97% of the research.

May 17, 2016
Ummmm, no. Clearly said scientists. You know, the people part of the equation. There is only a consilience of group think.

May 17, 2016
I know this is an amazing revelation, but it's the scientists doing the research. This is going to be a hallelujah moment for you so you might want to sit down.

May 17, 2016
Of those 97% of scientists, 100% of them interpret what they see. It's still just people.

May 17, 2016
That's how I know to pray before I take a step because gravity could stop working

May 17, 2016
That's how I know to pray before I take a step because gravity could stop working

Uh huh, and what do you do before you spew your lies?
The predictions for hurricanes and cyclones were for LESS of larger MAGNITUDE

May 17, 2016
In short, emissions from unsustainable fossil fertilizers and factory ranches

Also, farms are not ranches. Animals on ranches. Plants on farms


[[Citation Needed]]

May 17, 2016
Kove knows not of what he speaks, not being a native-born English speaker. The KGB equivalent does not teach them the finer points of the language.

May 22, 2016
The not so subtle message of this article and 99% of all environmental articles is that humans are evil and should all die for the good of Gia.... by an environmentally sensitive means of course.

May 22, 2016
Old McDonald had a farm
EIEIOOOOO
And on that farm he had some....broccoli
EIEIOOOOO
With a (wait WTF sound does a broccoli make?)


With a brocc brocc here
and a oli there
here a brocc there 'o li
everywhere a broccoli

It's not rocket science or anything.

May 22, 2016
Plants are flourishing with increased carbon dioxide. "A new scientific study published in April in the journal Nature reveals that between 25% up to possibly 50% of Earth's vegetated lands have shown significant greening over the last 35 years. Moreover, the study says that the greening is largely due to rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide."

Also VietPet was too busy raining Napalm on village children to notice that pigs and cows do not sprout from fields

May 22, 2016
Plant toxicity.
Nutrient deficiency

Do we have to go through this shit *again*?

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