Ammonia emissions remain problematic

By Christian BlockMisch PautschMike ZenariGilles Kayser Switch to German for original article

More than ten years ago, Luxembourg committed itself to reducing emissions of ammonia gas, which is harmful to health and the environment. So far, the country has barely met its targets. The challenge for the coming years is enormous.

There's something in the air. And far too much of it. Air quality in Europe has improved in many respects in recent years. However, when it comes to ammonia, the situation is very different. The European Environment Agency (EEA) has even described the reduction of ammonia emissions in the fight against air pollution as the "biggest challenge" in the coming years.

Ammonia (NH₃) is an extremely problematic gas that causes damage not only to human health, but also to plants and ecosystems. The gas is for instance produced by mixing urine and faeces, i.e. primarily in livestock housing or when spreading farm manure. Another source is synthetic nitrogen fertilisers. Ammonia is distributed in the environment via the air. The accumulation of nutrients is particularly harmful to lean ecosystems, including meadows and bodies of water, and in combination with other air pollutants, the compound of nitrogen and hydrogen can form particulate matter that is harmful to health. The Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Mainz stated in a 2017 study: "If agricultural emissions were 50 per cent lower, […] 250,000 (premature, ed.) deaths caused by air pollution could be avoided worldwide every year." In addition, the gas with its characteristic pungent odour can also be converted into nitrous oxide, which has a huge impact on the climate.

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