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Nitrogen Pollution

June 2, 2008

Human-produced nitrogen may pose as large an environmental risk as carbon emissions.


The perils of excess nitrogen. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

It’s no secret that human carbon emissions are a big problem. But two recent reviews in the journal Science warn that we also need to curb our production of reactive nitrogen. University of Virginia bio-geochemist James Galloway notes that in 2005, humans produced roughly twice as much reactive nitrogen as nature did — mainly by farming with nitrogen-packed fertilizers, and burning fossil fuels.

JAMES GALLOWAY (University of Virginia):
And so as this reactive nitrogen is lost, it cycles throughout the Earth’s reservoirs – soils, waters, and the atmosphere — and as it moves through these reservoirs, it causes these cascades of environmental impacts.

… Impacts that include air pollution, acidic soil and water, ozone depletion and global warming – and the resulting threats to animals and people. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.