Remember, correlation does not mean cause! See also the rebuttal below
From the 24 March 2015 MedicalExpress item
Air pollution is linked to a higher risk of stroke, particularly in developing countries, finds a study published in The BMJ today. In a second article, new research also shows that air pollution is associated with anxiety.
Stroke is a leading cause of death and kills around 5 million people each year worldwide. Common risk factors include obesity, smoking and high blood pressure. But the effect of the environment, such as, air pollution is uncertain because evidence is lacking.
In a systematic review and meta analysis, a team of researchers from Edinburgh University looked at the association between short term air pollution exposure and stroke related hospital admissions and deaths. In total, they analysed 103 observational studies that covered 28 countries across the world.
Gaseous pollutants included in the analysis were carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and ozone. In addition, particulate matter was included: PM 2.5 (fine particles less than 2.5 µm in size) and PM 10 (coarse particles less than 10 µm in size).
Results showed an association between carbon monoxide (1.5% increased risk per 1 ppm), sulphur dioxide (1.9% per 10 ppb) and nitrogen dioxide (1.4% per 10 ppb) and stroke related hospital admissions or death. The weakest association was found for ozone.
Both PM 2.5 and PM 10 were associated with hospital admissions or deaths due to stroke, by 1.1% and 0.3% per 10 µg/m3 increment respectively. The first day of air pollution exposure was found to have the strongest association.
Low- to middle-income countries experienced the strongest associations compared to high-income countries. Only 20% of analysed studies were from low- to middle-income countries – mostly mainland China – despite these countries having the highest burden of stroke.
Both studies were observational and no definitive conclusions can be drawn about cause and effect, and the teams of researchers call for more research.
Future air quality could put plants, people at risk — ScienceDaily.
Kyoto is intended to cut global emissions of greenhouse gases. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
From the 6 November 2014 press release
Source:University of Sheffield
Summary:Future ozone levels could be high enough to cause serious damage to plants and crops, even if emissions of greenhouse gases are reduced, says new research. And without sufficient reductions in emissions, ozone levels could also pose a risk to human health.
y combining projections of climate change, emissions reductions and changes in land use across the USA, an international research team estimate that by 2050, cumulative exposure to ozone during the summer will be high enough to damage vegetation.
Although the research findings — published in Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics Discussions — focus on the impact in the USA, they raise wider concerns for global air quality, according to lead researcher Dr Maria Val Martin, from the University of Sheffield’s Faculty of Engineering
“Modelling future air quality is very complex, because so many factors need to be taken into account at both a global and local scale,” says Dr Val Martin. “The picture isn’t uniform across the USA, with some areas seeing much higher surface ozone levels than others. However, our findings show that the emissions reductions we’re expecting to achieve won’t guarantee air quality on their own, as they will be offset by changes in climate and land use and by an increase in wildfires. This is an issue that will affect all parts of the world, not just the USA.”
The research looked at air quality under two scenarios set out by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change: one which envisages greenhouse gas emissions peaking in 2040 and then falling, the other in which emissions continue to rise until 2100. The team combined data on climate change, land use and emissions to create a picture of air quality across the USA in 2050.
The model showed that, if greenhouse gas emissions peak in 2040, then by 2050 surface ozone will remain below levels set to safeguard human health, despite increases in ozone caused by higher temperatures and changes in agriculture and forestation. If emissions continue to rise until 2100, then some areas of the USA will see surface ozone above the safe levels set for human health.
State of the Air 2014 | American Lung Association.
From the Web site
The State of the Air 2014 shows that the nation’s air quality worsened in 2010-2012, but remains overall much cleaner than just a decade ago.
More than 147.6 million people—47 percent of the nation—live where pollution levels are too often dangerous to breathe, an increase from last year’s report.
Despite that risk, some seek to weaken the Clean Air Act, the public health law that has driven the cuts in pollution since 1970.
Web site includes the following
- Options to
- Search air quality by zip code (for “grades”)
and state (for “report cards”)
- Compare your air
- Health Effects of Ozone and Particle Pollution
- Key Findings
- Ozone Pollution — More than 4 in 10 people lived in areas with unhealthful levels of ozone in 2010-2012. See which cities with the worst ozone had even more unhealthy air days.
- Year-round Particle Pollution — More than 46.2 million people live in an area burdened year-round by unhealthful levels of deadly particle pollution. See which cities saw continued progress in cleaning up sources and which suffered even more pollution.
- Short-term Particle Pollution — Many cities endured more days where particle pollution spiked during this period. Fourteen percent (14%) of people in the United States live where they suffered too many days with unhealthful levels of particle pollution.
- Cleanest Cities — Only four cities made the cleanest list in all three categories, but several were among the cleanest in two.
- People at Risk — Nearly half of the people in the U.S. live in counties that have unhealthful levels of either ozone or particle pollution. Learn more about people who face the greatest risk—probably someone you know is one of them.
- What Needs to be Done to Get Healthy Air— What do we need to do as a nation? How can you help clean up the air?
The World Health Organization (WHO) has crafted this site that is dedicated to “public health, social and environmental determinants of health (PHE).” On the site, visitors can look over the WHO’s publications and news releases, along with multimedia features and event listings. Guests should start by browsing the Publications which contain timely reports on pharmaceuticals in drinking-water and children’s environmental health. The Health Topics area contains information about how WHO is working to reduce indoor air pollution, outdoor pollution, and chemical safety. The site also contains links to its overall global strategy via working papers and policy statements. [KMG]
From the 27 March 2014 Rice University Press Release
Rice University analysis of state efforts show dramatic gains in reducing airborne particulate matter
HOUSTON – (March 27, 2014) – National efforts in the last decade to clear the air of dangerous particulate matter have been so successful that most urban areas have already attained the next benchmark, according to new research by Rice University.
Atmospheric researchers at Rice studied the state implementation plans (SIPs) from 23 regions mandated by the Environmental Protection Agency to reduce particulate matter (PM) smaller than 2.5 microns (PM 2.5) to less than 15 micrograms per cubic meter by 2009.
The Rice analysis appears this week in the Journal of the Air and Waste Management Association.
All but one of the regions studied reported they had met the goal by deadline. States with regions that met the deadline included Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and West Virginia, as well as the District of Columbia. The final region, Alabama, reported attainment in 2010.
PM 2.5 concentrations in the nonattainment regions that filed SIPs to attain the standard by 2009 declined by an average 2.6 micrograms per cubic meter – significantly greater improvement than in regions that had attained the standard from its inception. The study showed PM reductions in the SIP regions were broadly spread, rather than pinpointed at the most polluted monitors.
“One of the things we were most interested in looking at was to see if states were cherry-picking their measures to meet the standard by reducing pollution at their worst monitors, compared with how much they were doing to bring down levels all across the region so that people were breathing cleaner air,” said Daniel Cohan, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at Rice.
“It was encouraging to find that across the country, we have seen overall particulate-matter levels come down. We found very slight extra improvement at monitors that were targeted the most, but regions that had to develop plans achieved pretty solid controls that didn’t just pinpoint the worst monitors. And the large populations of these regions benefited.”
Cohan and Rice alumna Ran Chen also documented that air pollution continued to decline even after the 2009 standards were met. The majority of the SIP regions had already attained the mandated 2014 goal of 12 micrograms per cubic meter by 2012.
“We’ve been on a good trajectory,” Cohan said. “This demonstrates that the combination of state and federal controls has been substantially improving air quality in the U.S.”
– See more at: http://news.rice.edu/2014/03/27/us-clean-air-efforts-stay-on-target/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Science360NewsServiceComplete+%28Science360+News+Service%3A+Complete%29&utm_content=Netvibes#sthash.eZJySuaf.dpuf
From the 4 February 2014 EPA Press Release
Total releases of toxic chemicals decreased 12 percent from 2011-2012, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) annual Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) report released today. The decrease includes an eight percent decline in total toxic air releases, primarily due to reductions in hazardous air pollutant (HAP) emissions.
“People deserve to know what toxic chemicals are being used and released in their backyards, and what companies are doing to prevent pollution,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “By making that information easily accessible through online tools, maps, and reports, TRI is helping protect our health and the environment.”
The 2012 data show that 3.63 billion pounds of toxic chemicals were either disposed or otherwise released into the environment through air, water, and land. There was also a decline in releases of HAPs such as hydrochloric acid and mercury, which continues a long-term trend. Between 2011 and 2012, toxic releases into surface water decreased three percent and toxic releases to land decreased 16 percent.
This is the first year that TRI has collected data on hydrogen sulfide. While it was added to the TRI list of reportable toxic chemicals in a 1993 rulemaking, EPA issued an Administrative Stay in 1994 that deferred reporting while the agency completed further evaluation of the chemical. EPA lifted the stay in 2011. In 2012, 25.8 million pounds of hydrogen sulfide were reported to TRI, mainly in the form of releases to air from paper, petroleum, and chemical manufacturing facilities.
Another new addition to TRI reporting is a requirement for each facility located in Indian country to submit TRI reports to EPA and the appropriate tribe, and not the state where the facility is geographically located. EPA finalized this requirement in a 2012 rule aimed at increasing tribal participation in the TRI Program.
This year’s TRI national analysis report includes new analyses and interactive maps for each U.S. metropolitan and micropolitan area, new information about industry efforts to reduce pollution through green chemistry and other pollution prevention practices, and a new feature about chemical use in consumer products.
The annual TRI report provides citizens with critical information about their communities. The TRI Program collects data on certain toxic chemical releases to the air, water, and land, as well as information on waste management and pollution prevention activities by facilities across the country.
The data are submitted annually to EPA, states, and tribes by facilities in industry sectors such as manufacturing, metal mining, electric utilities, and commercial hazardous waste. Many of the releases from facilities that are subject to TRI reporting are regulated under other EPA program requirements designed to limit harm to human health and the environment.
Also available is the expanded TRI Pollution Prevention (P2) Search Tool, which now allows users to graphically compare facilities within the same industry using a variety of environmental metrics.
Toxics Release Inventory National Analysis
Under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA), facilities must report their toxic chemical releases to EPA by July 1 of each year. The Pollution Prevention Act of 1990 also requires facilities to submit information on waste management activities related to TRI chemicals.
More information on the 2012 TRI analysis, including metropolitan and micropolitan areas is available atwww.epa.gov/tri/nationalanalysis.
What tools are available to help me conduct my own analysis?
A variety of online tools available from the Data and Tools webpage will help you access and analyze TRI data.
Where can I get downloadable files containing the data used in the 2012 National Analysis?
- Basic Data Files: Each file contains the most commonly requested data fields submitted by facilities on the TRI Reporting Form R or the Form A Certification Statement.
- Basic Plus Data Files: These files collectively contain all the data fields submitted by facilities on the TRI Reporting Form R or the Form A Certification Statement.
- Dioxin, Dioxin-Like Compounds and TEQ Data Files: These files include the individually reported mass quantity data for dioxin and dioxin-like compounds reported on the TRI Reporting Form R Schedule 1, along with the associated TEQ data.
From the 22 January 2014 EurkAlert
More diseases from air pollution uncovered by improved data material
Good health and personal registers in combination with model calculations of air pollution down to an individual address has helped Danish researchers to become among the very best in the world to detect harmful diseases deriving from polluted air
|| IMAGE: This is professor Ole Hertel of Aarhus University. Good health and personal registers in combination with model calculations of air pollution down to an individual address has helped Danish researchers…Click here for more information.
At rest, we breathe approx. 12-15 times per minute, and for each inhalation we change approx. one litre of air. Depending on the activity level, this makes up a daily quantity in the order of twenty cubic metres of air that – with its content of pollution in the form of particles and different gases – can make us ill depending on how polluted the air is.
Asthma attacks, wheezing, cardiovascular diseases and lung cancer are some of the more glaring examples of diseases we – in worst case – can get from the domestic air. The list of injuries due to air pollution in Denmark is long. This appears from a brand new article that professor Ole Hertel from Aarhus University, has written with a number of Danish colleagues at University of Copenhagen, the Danish Cancer Society and Aarhus University. “So the list of diseases detected in Denmark is long, but it does not mean that we have the world’s most polluted air. This is to be found in Asia, Africa and South America. Here, you typically find a yearly mean value of the particle pollution (PM10) of 50-200 micrograms per cubic metres of air, while the content in Copenhagen and other Western European Megacities typically is at a lower level – about 20-50 micrograms per cubic metre. But even in a “moderately polluted” air as we call it in Danish towns and cities, we find many serious injuries which come from the air that we breathe every day,” explains Ole Hertel.
In the article “Utilizing Monitoring Data and Spatial Analysis Tools for Exposure Assessment of Atmospheric Pollutants in Denmark”, Ole Hertel and his colleagues review the Danish experiences in combining measurements and models. By combining measurements on relatively few but well-chosen places with advanced models for spreading of air pollution, the researchers can calculate the air pollution down to the individual addresses.
Hertel and Co. review a number of Danish studies of the coherence between air pollution and injuries to health. A total of nine short-term studies have been published in Denmark, where researchers have demonstrated respiratory and cardiovascular diseases after episodes with increased air pollution, etc. Similarly, eleven studies demonstrate long-term injuries due to air pollution, e.g. lung cancer, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and mortality.
|| IMAGE: Ole Hertel and his colleagues at Aarhus University can calculate the air pollution down to address accuracy with the AIRGIS model which combines information about emissions of air pollution and…Click here for more information.
The scientists’ ability to detect a wide range if different types of damages of the Danes’ health is due to the fact that Danish researchers represent some of the very best to demonstrate illnesses caused by air pollution on human health. This is obvious when we look at the model for spreading of air pollution, OSPM, which was developed by Danes and is now used in approx. twenty countries. This is also why Ole Hertel was invited to give an overview of the diseases detected to be a consequence of the air pollution in Denmark, first on a major international conference and afterwards in book form:
“We have some very unique health registers in Denmark and that is quite different from other countries. We are able to connect addresses and health registers with air-polluted areas. In Denmark, we have many cohort investigations where the same persons are followed during a long period of time. Here, we can link to other sorts of information and thus separate effects related to e.g. lifestyle from effects related to air pollution. For instance, the Danish Cancer Society makes a study of people’s diet and exercise habits in a so-called Diet, Cancer, Health study, and in addition you have the whole birth cohort where the same children have been followed from around the turn of the century until now,” explains Ole Hertel.
But not only do we have some of the world’s best health registers in Denmark;
“We also have some outstanding good pieces of information on traffic, buildings and infrastructure. This information we have concluded in the so-called
AirGis Model which uses digital road maps and building and road registers to determine the parameters we need for air quality calculations on address level. Therefore, we can come up with conclusions that are more precise than in other countries.” Ole Hertel emphasises that there are strong constrains around handling of personal information.
Ole Hertel points out one of the Danish results as particularly notable:
“It came as a surprise to me that the studies showed a connection between air pollution and diabetes. It is rather new information that air pollution can cause diabetes, and we are working on finding a biological explanation for this correlation. This is an example of the fact that our very detailed way of working in Denmark leads to precise results.”
It takes fifty litres of air to read this article
Dear reader, if you represent an average reader, you have just spent three minutes and 58 seconds to read this article – probably inclusive of pauses for thoughts (thank you for that!). During this time you have inhaled approx. fifty litres of air through your lungs, depending on your gender and size.
Long term exposure to air pollution linked to coronary events (EurkAlert)
From the 8 November 2013 Resources for the Future Library Blog
International Council on Clean Transportation / by Sarah Chambliss, Josh Miller, Cristiano Façanha, Ray Minjares and Kate Blumberg
[Green Car Congress] Although many countries have adopted emission control regulations patterned on the European regulations, the significant majority of these have not implemented the latest and most stringent Euro 6/VI stage. A study by a team at the the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) finds that if that lag persists and present trends in vehicle activity continue, early deaths from vehicle-related PM2.5 exposure in urban areas will increase 50% by 2030, compared to 2013.
Conversely, the report finds, if all countries were to follow an accelerated roadmap to Euro 6/VI-level regulations, in tandem with fuel-quality regulations limiting sulfur content to 10 to 15 parts per million (ppm), early deaths globally from road vehicle emissions would fall by 75% (200,000) in the year 2030, representing a cumulative savings of 25 million additional years of life…
Serious air pollution (Photo credit: Andrew.T@NN)
From the 18 October 2013 article By Ritchie King and Lily Kuo at Quartz
In 2010, some 223,000 people around the world died from lung cancer caused by exposure to air pollution, the World Health Organization (WHO) said yesterday. And more than half of those deaths are believed to have been in China and elsewhere in East Asia. Here are the world’s worst cities for air pollution, according to the WHO.
Exposure to air pollution is getting worse in parts of the world, especially industrializing countries, according to the WHO. The WHO’s key announcement yesterday was that it has included outdoor air pollution on its definitive list of the world’s known carcinogens—an addition that, it hopes, will get governments to do something about it. Air pollution is the world’s worst environmental carcinogen and more dangerous than second-hand smoke, for instance, the health body said.
As the chart above shows, the cities with the worst air are often not big capitals, but provincial places with heavy industry in them or nearby. Ahwaz, for instance, in southwestern Iran, far outstrips infamously polluted cities like New Delhi or Beijing, with 372 parts per million of particles smaller than 10 micrometers (PM10), compared to the world average of 71. Life expectancy for the city of 1.2 million residents is the lowest in Iran.
Why so bad? In Ahwaz, Iranian meteorology officials have blamed the US for the spike, claiming the presence of US forces in Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s destroyed agriculture and caused desertification. But researchers cite heavy industry in and around the city, like oil, metal and petrochemical processing, and blame the desertification on the draining of marshes and a national project that has diverted local water away from the city.
For 14 years, the American Lung Association has analyzed data from air quality monitors to compile the State of the Air report. The more you learn about the air you breathe, the more you can protect your health and take steps to make our air cleaner and healthier.
Want to know what the air quality is where you live or another US location?
Just enter the zipcode at the home page.
Thanks to the Clean Air Act, the United States continues to make progress providing healthier air. The “State of the Air 2013″ shows that the nation’s air quality is overall much cleaner, especially compared to just a decade ago. Still, over 131.8 million people—42 percent of the nation—live where pollution levels are too often dangerous to breathe. Despite that risk, some seek to weaken the Clean Air Act, the public health law that has driven the cuts in pollution since 1970.
Ozone Pollution — Nearly 4 in 10 people lived in areas with unhealthful levels of ozone in 2009-2011.
Year-round Particle Pollution — More than 44.3 million people live in an area burdened year-round by unhealthful levels of deadly particle pollution.
Short-term Particle Pollution — Many cities endured more days where particle pollution spiked during this period. Fifteen percent (15%) of people in the United States live where they suffered too many days with unhealthful levels of particle pollution.
Cleanest Cities — Only four cities made the cleanest list in all three categories, but several were among the cleanest in two.
People at Risk —More than 4 in 10 people live in counties that have unhealthful levels of either ozone or particle pollution. Learn more about people who face the greatest risk—probably someone you know is one of them.
What Needs to be Done to Get Healthy Air —What do we need to do as a nation? How can you help clean up the air?
Environmental pollution (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
From the 29th August 2013 article at Science Daily
If you’re eating better and exercising regularly, but still aren’t seeing improvements in your health, there might be a reason: pollution. According to a new research report published in the September issue of The FASEB Journal, what you are eating and doing may not be the problem, but what’s in what you are eating could be the culprit.
“This study adds evidences for rethinking the way of addressing risk assessment especially when considering that the human population is widely exposed to low levels of thousands of chemicals, and that the health impact of realistic mixtures of pollutants will have to be tested as well,” said Brigitte Le Magueresse-Battistoni, a researcher involved in the work from the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research (INSERM). “Indeed, one pollutant could have a different effect when in mixture with other pollutants. Thus, our study may have strong implications in terms of recommendations for food security. Our data also bring new light to the understanding of the impact of environmental food contaminants in the development of metabolic diseases.”
Read the entire article here
From the 3 August 2012 article at Medical News Today
Most of the world’s population will be subject to degraded air quality in 2050 if man-made emissions continue as usual. In this ‘business-as-usual’ scenario, the average world citizen 40 years from now will experience similar air pollution to that of today’s average East Asian citizen. These conclusions are those of a study published in Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, an Open Access journal of the European Geosciences Union (EGU).
Air pollution is a major health risk that may worsen with increasing industrial activity. At present, urban outdoor air pollution causes 1.3 million estimated deaths per year worldwide, according to the World Health Organisation .
“Strong actions and further effective legislation are essential to avoid the drastic deterioration of air quality, which can have severe effects on human health,” concludes the team of scientists, led by Andrea Pozzer of the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics in Italy (now at the Max Planck Institute of Chemistry in Germany), in the new paper.
The researchers studied the impact of man-made emissions on air quality, assuming past emission trends continue and no additional climate change and air pollution reduction measures (beyond what is in place since 2005) are implemented. They point out that, while pessimistic, the global emissions trends indicate such continuation…
The analysis now published is the first to include all five major air pollutants know to negatively impact human health: PM2.5, nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide, ozone, and carbon monoxide. The scientists considered pollutants released through human activity, as well as those occurring naturally such as desert dust, sea spray, or volcanic emissions.
Taking all pollutants into account, eastern China, northern India, the Middle East, and North Africa are projected to have the world’s poorest air quality in the future. In the latter locations this is due to a combination of natural desert dust and man-induced ozone. The effect of anthropogenic pollution emissions are predicted to be most harmful in East and South Asia, where air pollution is projected to triple compared to current levels.
From the 22 July 2012 article at Medical News Today
Trees, bushes and other greenery growing in the concrete-and-glass canyons of cities can reduce levels of two of the most worrisome air pollutants by eight times more than previously believed, a new study has found. A report on the research appears in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology. ..
..The study concluded that judicious placement of grass, climbing ivy and other plants in urban canyons can reduce the concentration at street level of NO2 by as much as 40 percent and PM by 60 percent, much more than previously believed. The authors even suggest building plant-covered “green billboards” in these urban canyons to increase the amount of foliage. Trees were also shown to be effective, but only if care is taken to avoid trapping pollutants beneath their crowns…
From the 14 June 2012 ScienceDaily article
A study by the University of Sheffield has found that the air we breathe inside our own homes can have pollutant levels three times higher than the outdoor environment, in city centres and along busy road
Researchers from the University’s Faculty of Engineering measured air quality inside and outside three residential buildings with different types of energy use (gas vs. electric cookers). They found that nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels in the kitchen of the city centre flat with a gas cooker were three times higher than the concentrations measured outside the property and well above those recommended in UK Indoor Air Quality Guidance1. These findings are published in the Journal of Indoor and Built Environment.
“We spend 90 per cent of our time indoors and work hard to make our homes warm, secure and comfortable, but we rarely think about the pollution we might be breathing in,” said Professor Vida Sharifi, who led the research. “Energy is just one source of indoor pollution, but it is a significant one. And as we make our homes more airtight to reduce heating costs, we are likely to be exposed to higher levels of indoor pollution, with potential impacts on our health.”…
This short blog entry points to examples of how there is most likely links between air pollution and brain development and function. For example a recent study indicates schools in areas of high air pollution have higher rates of absenteeism. Crime rates have gone down in areas where lead removal was a high priority.
While it can be argued there is no cause and effect in these cases, correlations do warrant further study.
Past blogs here have included articles on the interconnection between healthy environments and healthy people. In my humble opinion, it just makes sense that if one lives in surroundings with high risk factors, one will develop conditions and diseases one is predisposed to (and perhaps more!).
A related article in the professional literature examines the links between mental health and neighborhoods.While it does not address pollution, it does have a similar holistic approach in considering the many factors which may affect a person’s health and well being.
The authors conclusion-
This study has shown that for people living in deprived areas, the quality and aesthetics of housing and neighbourhoods are associated with mental wellbeing, but so too are feelings of respect, status and progress that may be derived from how places are created, serviced and talked about by those who live there. The implication for regeneration activities undertaken to improve housing and neighbourhoods is that it is not just the delivery of improved housing that is important for mental wellbeing, but also the quality and manner of delivery.
Solutions for a nitrogen-soaked world
Excerpts from the press release
Interdisciplinary panel reviews US nitrogen pollution trends, risks, and mitigation strategies
Nitrogen is both an essential nutrient and a pollutant, a byproduct of fossil fuel combustion and a fertilizer that feeds billions, a benefit and a hazard, depending on form, location, and quantity. Agriculture, industry and transportation have spread nitrogen liberally around the planet, say sixteen scientists in the latest edition of ESA’s Issues in Ecology series, “Excess Nitrogen in the U.S. Environment: Trends, Risks, and Solutions,” with complex and interrelated consequences for ecological communities and our dependence upon the resources they provide, as well as human health.
Pulling from a broad pool of expertise in air quality, agronomy, ecology, epidemiology and groundwater geochemistry, the sixteen authors track nitrogen through its different chemical forms and biological incarnations as it progresses across economic, environmental and regulatory bounds. They argue for a systematic, rather than piecemeal, approach to managing the resource and its consequences. “We’re really trying to identify solutions,” said lead author Eric Davidson, a soil ecologist and executive director of the Woods Hole Research Center. “This is a paper about how much we do know, not about what we don’t know. We know about nitrogen cycles, and sources, and we know problems can be addressed in economically viable ways.”…
The report tabulates strategies to help farmers maximize efficient use of fertilizer, rather than just maximize crop yield, including buffer strips and wetlands, manure management, and ideal patterns of fertilizer application. It also considers the cost of implementing them, and programs for buffering farmers against losses in bad years.
“There are a variety of impacts due to the human use of nitrogen,” said Galloway. “The biggest is a positive one, in that it allows us to grow food for Americans and people in other countries, and we don’t want to lose sight of that.” Balancing inexpensive abundant food against the damage done by nitrogen escaping into the environment is a conversation the authors would like to hear more prominently in policy arenas.
“Yes, we have to feed people, but we also need clean drinking water, clean air, and fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico,” said Davidson. “The science helps to show those tradeoffs, and where we most stand to gain from improved nutrient management in agriculture.”…
Read the entire news release here