What’s Killing Midwest Farmers’ Daughters?

… along with their sons, wifes, neighbors, and themselves? 

| This one farm practice may be killing thousands of midwest residents a year, even if they don’t live on a farm

| Weather.com – A new study just published in Nature found that air pollution associated with corn production results in the premature deaths of 4,300 people in the U.S. every year.

“You think air quality and you think coal plants, and you think dirty diesel trucks,” Jason Hill, an engineering professor at the University of Minnesota and the study’s lead author, told Popular Science. “Certainly both of those are major contributors to reduced air quality, but corn production? Yes, that too.”

Cornfields carpet 92 million acres of farmland across the U.S., mostly in the Midwest and Great Plains. The U.S. is the largest exporter of corn in the world.

Hill and his fellow researchers used “life cycle assessment” models to measure the emission impacts at every stage of corn production and compared them to local pollution-related deaths in the 2,000 counties across the U.S. that produce the most corn.

The results laid much of the blame on ammonia fertilizers, long known to cause air pollution and health problems … Read more.

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FURTHER READING … 

Pollutants from agriculture a serious threat to world’s water

New report paints a worrying picture, provides recommendations on what can be done

20 June 2018, Rome

Food and Agriculture Organization – Water pollution from unsustainable agricultural practices poses a serious risk to human health and the planet’s ecosystems, a problem often underestimated by policymakers and farmers alike, cautions a new report.

In many countries the biggest source of water pollution today is agriculture — not cities or industry — while worldwide, the most common chemical contaminant found in groundwater aquifers is nitrate from farming, according to More People, More Food, Worse Water? A Global Review of Water Pollution from Agriculture, launched by FAO and the International Water Management Institute at a conference in Tajikistan (19-22 June).

Modern agriculture is responsible for the discharge of large quantities of agrochemicals, organic matter, sediments and saline trading into water bodies, the report says.

This pollution affects billions of people and generates annual costs exceeding billions of dollars.

“Agriculture is the single largest producer of wastewater, by volume, and livestock generates far more excreta than do humans. As land use has intensified, countries have greatly increased the use of synthetic pesticides, fertilizers and other inputs,” write Eduardo Mansur, Director of FAO’s Land and Water Division, and Claudia Sadoff, IWMI Director-General, in their introduction to the report.

“While these inputs have helped boost food production, they have also given rise to environmental threats, as well as to potential human health concerns,” they add.

The agropollutants of greatest concern for human health are pathogens from livestock, pesticides, nitrates in groundwater, trace metallic elements and emerging pollutants, including antibiotics and antibiotic-resistant genes excreted by livestock.

The new report represents the most comprehensive review of the dispersed scientific literature on the issue complied to date, and aims to fill information gaps and lay out policy and farm-level solutions in one consolidated reference.

How agriculture affects water quality

The boom in global agricultural productivity that followed the Second World War was achieved in large part through the intensive use of inputs such as pesticides and chemical fertilizers.

Since 1960 the use of mineral fertilizer has grown ten times, while since 1970 global sales of pesticides climbed from around $one billion to $35 billion a year.

Meanwhile, the intensification of livestock production — world livestock numbers have more than tripled since 1970 — has seen a new class of pollutants emerge: antibiotics, vaccines and hormonal growth promoters that travel from farms through water into ecosystems and our drinking water.

At the same time, water pollution by organic matter from livestock farming is now significantly more widespread than organic pollution from urban areas.

Read more. 

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