Study estimates particulate pollution of foods

Jun 4, 2021  | 2 min  | Ep4642

Agricultural practices are frequently put under a microscope. The inputs and outputs have to be factored into how we produce food and fiber.

A recent study compares the emissions from production of items like carrots and beef as well as its geographical location.

Peter Tubbs dives into the study. Producer contact peter.tubbs@iowapbs.org

Several scientific studies have revealed that feed-ing the world comes with costs, one of which is deterio-rating air quality.
A white paper released in May by the University of Minnesota, shows that, of the 100,000 premature deaths in the U.S. each year from particulate matter, nearly 18,000 of them can be attributed directly to agriculture. 
Jason Hill, University of Minnesota: “So we know that the reduced air quality is the largest contributor to, um, re-duce human health from environmental causes in the U S and globally. And we also know that agriculture is a major contributor to reduced air quality, but what people haven't known is how individual foods or diets contribute to re-duced air quality. So we set off to fill in the gap of knowledge.”
 
The study used data from the Environmental Pro-tection Agency and the United States Department of Ag-riculture to calculate emissions from agriculture on the county level, based on both the type of crops and animals grown as well as their proximity to the nearby population.
The study also estimated that agricultural activities near densely populated areas have a higher impact on human health than those located in sparsely occupied re-gions of the country.
Three different computer models arrived at similar results. Ammonia was estimated to be the largest source of atmospheric particulate matter from agriculture. 
The authors of the study believe consumers can drive a reduction in particulate production by changing their eating habits. 
Jason Hill, University of Minnesota: “And we point out in the paper, well, you get most of the benefit, uh, just by, uh, either changing the type of animal products you're consuming or by consuming a little less. (edit) So you can get, you know, 80, 90 percent of the way there just by making those, those, um, those, I don't want to say subtle, but, but substantive changes in your diet, but without having to, um, take sort of an absolutist approach to, to what you eat”
The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association told the Washington Post the study was riddled with data gaps and the methodology was questionable.
For Market to Market, I’m Peter Tubbs. 
 
 
 

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