Health costs of air pollution from agriculture clarified

Health costs of air pollution from agriculture clarified

Ammonia pollution from agricultural sources poses larger health costs than previously estimated, according to research. Computer models, including a NASA model of chemical reactions in the atmosphere, were used to better represent how ammonia interacts in the atmosphere to form harmful particulate matter. The improved simulation helped the scientists narrow in on the estimated health costs from air pollution associated with food produced for export — a growing sector of agriculture and a source of trade surplus.

via Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily:

Ammonia pollution from agricultural sources poses larger health costs than previously estimated, according to NASA-funded research.Harvard University researchers Fabien Paulot and Daniel Jacob used computer models including a NASA model of chemical reactions in the atmosphere to better represent how ammonia interacts in the atmosphere to form harmful particulate matter. The improved simulation helped the scientists narrow in on the estimated health costs from air pollution associated with food produced for export — a growing sector of agriculture and a source of trade surplus.”The ‘cost’ is an economic concept to measure how much people are willing to pay to avoid a risk,” Paulot said. “This is used to quantify the cost for society but also to evaluate the benefits of mitigation.”The new research by Paulot and Jacob calculate the health cost associated with the ammonia emissions from agriculture exports to be $36 billion a year — equal to about half of the revenue generated by those same exports — or $100 per kilogram of ammonia. The study was published December 2013 in Environmental Science & Technology.The new estimate is about double the current estimate by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which suggests a cost of $47 per kilogram of ammonia. The scientists say the new estimate is on the high end of the spectrum, which reflects the need for more research into characterizing the relationship between agricultural ammonia emissions and the formation of the harmful fine particulate matter — a relationship that’s not as straightforward as previous estimates assumed.”The effect of ammonia on fine particulate is complex, and we believe that the models previously used in the United States to price ammonia emissions have not captured this well,” Paulot said.Manure from livestock and fertilizer for crops release ammonia to the atmosphere. In the air, ammonia mixes with other emissions to form microscopic airborne particles, or particulates. The particulates that pose the greatest health risk are those that measure no more than 2.5 micrometers across, or about 1/30 the width of a human hair, which when inhaled can become lodged deep within the lungs. Long-term exposure has been linked to heart and lung diseases and even death. As such, the particles are on the list of six common air pollutants regulated by EPA’s National Ambient Air Quality Standards.An increase in ammonia, however, does not translate to an equal increase in particulates. …

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Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily

Health costs of air pollution from agriculture clarified

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