Protecting The Planet

Grind for April 5th, 2019
“A memory is a beautiful thing, it’s almost a desire that you miss.”

– Gustave Flaubert

Hold Your Breath

The Headline

How growing corn contributes to air pollution

The Grind

The results of a study published this week in Nature Sustainability suggest corn production in the United States accounts for 4,300 premature deaths each year.

“That’s about a quarter of all [air pollution-related] agricultural deaths,” notes study author Jason Hill, an engineering professor at the University of Minnesota.

As a whole, air pollution kills about 4.2 million people per year. In 2019, it was ranked as one of the top 10 threats to global health.

The Details

To understand more about corn’s effect on the climate, Hill and his team analyzed every step of the corn supply chain – from fertilizer production all the way to distribution.

Ammonia from fertilizer application was the biggest culprit, accounting for about 70% of attributable deaths. Other factors include gas use and the creation of dust from running tractors and tilling land.

When released into the air, ammonia reacts with other particles to form PM2.5 – a type of air pollution linked to respiratory illness, cardiovascular problems, diabetes, and birth defects.

Previous research suggests agriculture is responsible for about 16% of all manmade PM2.5 pollution.

Sounds Familiar

The Headline

European Parliament votes to ban plastic straws

The Grind

The war on plastic straws has spread to the EU, where lawmakers this Wednesday approved a plan to eliminate single-use plastics.

The vote, which could encourage other governments to follow suit, also includes plans to improve the quality of tap water and reduce the use of plastic bottles.

The Details

If all goes according to plan, the ban on single-use plastics will be implemented in all EU member states by 2021. The ban affects straws, coffee stirrers, plates, balloon sticks, cutlery, and cotton swabs.

The proposal tightens restrictions on the maximum limits for pollutants and bacteria in tap water, forces some manufacturers to display plastic content on their labels, and requires that all plastic bottles be made using at least 25% recycled material by 2025.

The Background

The global push to eliminate single-use plastics is a response to concerns about plastic’s effect on marine life. According to the UN, as many as 800 species are affected by the plastic debris floating in our oceans.

Greenpeace estimates that up to 10% of the 260 million tons of plastic produced each year ends up in the ocean.

Did you know… Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer was invented for a US firm’s Christmas promotion in 1938.