One of the biggest causes of air-pollution is animal agriculture causing roughly half of all US air pollution. So what can be done?

Think about air pollution, and images of stalled traffic in a cloud of fumes and wildfires belching out dark smoke will likely come to mind. But there are many other, less noticeable forms of air pollution that deserve our attention. One of these is agriculture.

Agriculture, particularly the kind that raises animals for human consumption, tends to be known as an emitter of methane, a potent greenhouse gas that’s thirty times stronger than carbon dioxide. But it’s also an aggressive degrader of air quality, as explained in an article from The Breakthrough Institute. The Institute states that agriculture is responsible for roughly half of U.S. air pollution (human-caused fine particulate matter) and that the primary source within the agricultural sector is ammonia generated by livestock and fertiliser (which comes from animal waste) – not heavy machinery, as some might think.

The ammonia reacts with pollutants from vehicles, power plants, and other sources to form fine particulate matter, affecting not just rural farmland, but also blowing into populous cities further away. Livestock manure generates the lion’s share of ammonia from agriculture as well as a variety of other harmful pollutants – which is why meat, dairy, and other livestock production together make up one of the top five sources of air pollution deaths, with an impact larger than the exhaust from trucking.

The Sierra Club reports that, while concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) are required to disclose information about ammonia emissions, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency does not regulate air pollution from CAFOs. The disclosure rule has revealed that the single biggest emitter of ammonia in the country is a dairy farm in Oregon.

A 2019 report issued by the Natural Resources Defense Council puts the amounts into perspective, explaining that “an average broiler facility raising 90,000 birds at a time may release more than 15 tons of ammonia a year, causing respiratory problems and chronic lung disease as well as chemical burns to the respiratory tract, skin, and eyes of nearby residents.

It’s not just ammonia that’s a problem; other toxic gases like hydrogen sulphide have been linked to neurological problems, including extreme anger, depression, and illness, as well as increased levels of asthma in children living in the vicinity.

What’s the solution?

The way farmers raise animals and tend land can affect air quality. Using deep covered pits instead of anaerobic lagoons to store a manure slurry could prevent much of it from blowing away. Tweaking feed formulas, using the minimal amount of fertiliser required on a field, and employing more rotational crops could all contribute to improving air quality.

And it wouldn’t be Treehugger if we didn’t add “reducing meat consumption” to that list. When we buy cheap meat at the grocery store, we’re driving demand for industrialised meat production, which is behind much of this air pollution. By eating less meat (or giving it up completely), fewer animals need to be bred, raised, and slaughtered, which means less manure.

Original source: https://www.treehugger.com