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The air thickens: Nitrogen gets the Carbon treatment
Date 11/04/2011 14:50  Author webmaster  Hits 1268  Language Global
11 APR 2011

By Roger Harrabin | BBC (Nitrogen pollution 'costs EU up to £280bn a year')

Nitrogen pollution from farms, vehicles, industry and waste treatment is costing the EU up to £280bn (320bn euros) a year, a report says.

The study by 200 European experts says reactive nitrogen contributes to air pollution, fuels climate change and is estimated to shorten the life of the average resident by six months.

Livestock farming is one of the biggest causes of nitrogen pollution, it adds.

It calls for changes in farming and more controls on vehicles and industry.

The problem would be greatly helped if less meat was consumed, the report says.

Nitrogen is the most common element in the atmosphere and is harmless.

It is the reactive form - mainly produced by human activity - that causes a web of related problems.

The 600-page report relies on experts from 21 countries and 89 organisations. It estimates the annual cost of damage caused by nitrogen across Europe as being £55-£280bn.

Reactive nitrogen emissions from agriculture are the most intractable as they come from many diffuse sources.

The report says Europe needs nitrogen fertilisers for its own food security but blames many farmers for applying fertiliser carelessly to crops, so that excess nitrogen runs off to pollute water supplies.

Run-off from animal manure also fouls watercourses, and the release of nitrous oxides from uncovered dung heaps pollutes the air.

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