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Nitrogen Pollution

June 2, 2008

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

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):
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.

HIRSHON:
… 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.