Nitrogen Pollution Shortens Average Lifespan by 6 Months, Costs EU Up To $460 Billion a Year

nitrogen pollution photo

Photo: Thirteen of Clubs, Flickr, CC
Drive Less, Eat Less Meat
In a study that is dubbed "the first continental-scale assessment of reactive nitrogen in the environment", 200 experts from 21 countries looked at the impacts and costs of nitrogen pollution in the EU. This is important because reactive nitrogen contributes to air pollution, fuels climate change, and is estimated to shorten the life of the average resident by six months at a cost of 740 euros ($1,066) a year for each person in Europe. This isn't a small problem!
cows photo

Photo: Joost J. Bakker IJmuiden, Flickr, CC
Biggest Sources of Nitrogen Pollution
Livestock farming is one of the biggest sources of nitrogen pollution, and the study explicitly points out that if we ate less meat, it would make a positive difference. The authors of the study also call for improvements to farming techniques, changes to industrial processes, and improvements to vehicles.

But the 800 lbs gorilla when it comes to nitrogen pollution remains farming: "Agriculture produces 70% of the nitrous oxide emissions in Europe." But while farming is at the top of the list when it comes to quantity, emissions from burning fossil fuels tend to be more harmful to people and the environment, so NOx emission-control shouldn't be forgotten.

Lead editor, Mark Sutton from the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology near Edinburgh, told BBC News that 80% of the nitrogen in crops feeds livestock, not people.

"It's much more efficient to obtain protein by eating plants rather than animals," he said.

"If we want to help the problem we can all do something by eating less meat. Eating meat is the dominant driver of the nitrogen cycle in Europe." (source)

nitrogen pollution photo

Photo: Bo47, Flickr, CC

The monetary costs of the problem are estimated between 70 billion to 320 billion euros ($101 billion to $462 billion). New nitrogen regulation for farms are coming to Europe next year, but they might not be strict enough to but a real dent in the problem.

Via Cambridge University Press, BBC
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