A quarter of particle pollution in UK cities come from farms, study warns
A study has warned that over a quarter of particle pollution in the UK cities are caused by farming and can lead to serious health concerns.
Researchers from University College London - UCL - found that ammonia emissions coming from agricultural activity - such as using fertilisers and managing livestock - contribute to masses of particulate matter in the UK.
Farming has produced up to 25 per cent of particle pollution in London, 32 per cent in Birmingham and 38 per cent in Leicester.
The research team looked at the particulate matter that was 2.5 micrometres wide - or PM 2.5 - which was commonly found in the cities.
The author of the study, Dr Eloise Marais has called for measures to be put in place focusing on reducing ammonia emissions from agriculture.
“Ammonia emissions from agricultural activity represent such a large and ubiquitous source of particulate pollution in UK cities.
“It suggests that if we want to address PM 2.5 pollution, we need to have national scale regulation.
“There is a limit to how much local city councils can do to reduce their PM 2.5 pollution and improve the health of people living within their cities.”
Despite there already being clean air zones and areas of low emission that can be effective for pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide, particulate pollution can still travel through the air and into our lungs, causing adverse health effects like respiratory illnesses and lung cancer.
The harmful ammonia is caused by the inefficient use of nitrogen-based fertilisers, and there are feasible methods to reduce its emissions, according to Dr Marais.
“There are a few solutions like replacing urea-based fertilizer with fertilizer that produces less ammonia emissions.”
“Options like placing scrubbers on top of livestock housing where the scrubbers would essentially remove the pollutants from the atmosphere before they’re released from the housing to outdoors,” she added.
The Government also announced that farmers can be rewarded up to £1000 for taking nature-friendly steps under the new “sustainable farming incentive.”
There will also be an average increase of 10 per cent in payment rates for farmers who are in Countryside Stewardship agreements for ongoing work such as maintaining bird-friendly seed margins, creating scrub habitat, and managing upland grass areas to provide habitat for bugs and ground-nesting birds.