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European Farms a Major Factor in Particulate Pollution

April 5, 2016
Public Health

A new study suggests that emissions from agriculture in the European Union have been the main cause of a number of pollution episodes in the UK. Published in the journal Environmental Research Letters, the study concentrated on the particulate air pollution episode which affected many parts of the country between March and April 2014.

At the time, the conditions were blamed on a Saharan dust plume. Researchers however question that theory stating in the document that there was, “an over-emphasis on a natural phenomenon and consequently to a missed opportunity to inform the public and provide robust evidence for policy-makers about the observed characteristics and causes of this pollution event.”

Researchers noted that elevated particulate levels at the time were driven by the presence of ammonium nitrate, much of which was derived from outside the UK. Ammonia associated with the use of fertilisers and manure condenses to form particles capable of being blown long distances in a similar way to Saharan dust. The findings would appear to support previous evidence from DEFRA which suggested that half the UK’s PM2.5 pollution comes from other European countries including Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, France and Belgium.

The research has prompted new calls for stricter limits to be posed on the EU agricultural sector as part of ongoing negotiations aimed at updating existing clean air legislation across the union.

You can read a copy of the report HERE.