Feeding the world is a necessity, but the process doesn’t come without health risks—even in the form of air pollution. Fossil fuel combustion in cars and factories is a notorious cause of air pollution, specifically inhalable microscopic particulate matter called PM 2.5. Still, food production produces about 20 percent of the pollutant each year in the US.
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Air pollution is the largest environmental mortality risk in the United States, responsible for 100,000 premature deaths annually, and one-fifth of those deaths are linked to agriculture, said research published by the National Academy of Sciences on Monday. Scientists from five universities noted in their study that air quality is largely ignored in discussions of the health and environmental impacts of food.
The smell of hog feces was overwhelming, Elsie Herring said. The breezes that wafted from the hog farm next to her mother’s Duplin County, N.C., home carried hazardous gases: methane, ammonia, hydrogen sulfide.