American farmlands are among the most productive in the world. They fill a vital need, feeding millions of people every single day. But what are some of the effects of this widespread farming that we may not think about? Studies have shown that agricultural pollution from farms far outweighs all other human sources of fine-particulate air pollution in much of the United States.
Farming and Air Pollution
The Environmental Protection Agency reports four main agricultural activities linked to greenhouse gas emissions: soil management; enteric fermentation (a fancy term for ruminant animals’ burps and gas); manure management; and fossil fuel consumption.
Enteric fermentation and manure management are responsible for the emission of methane (CH4), and soil management accounts for the biggest source of nitrous oxide (N2O).
Additionally, agricultural pollution contains other dangerous gases and pollutants including:
- Carbon dioxide
- Hydrogen sulfide
- Airborne particulate matter
Living Near Farmlands
For those who live close to farmlands, this agricultural pollution can result in serious health concerns.
Here are some of the diseases linked to living near farmlands and other places where pesticides are used, with links to the studies:
Alternatives To Large-Scale Agriculture
Most of the pesticides and pollution come from large farms that produce food for a wide range of areas. One way to reduce the need for these types of farms is to focus on eating what’s grown in our area.
And here are some other steps you can take to help reduce agricultural pollution regardless of your proximity to farmland:
- Eat more plant-based food and consume less red meat, (the most carbon-intensive food)
- When you do buy animal products, check for any of the following labels:
- USDA Certified Organic
- USDA Process Verified No Antibiotics Ever
- Global Animal Partnership (GAP)
- American Grassfed
- Certified Humane
- Animal Welfare Approved
- Support local farmers who are practicing more sustainable growing methods
- Meal plan to prevent food waste, which is a significant contributor of greenhouse gas emissions
- Buying “ugly” produce is another way to cut down on food waste – you can buy it at any level, even directly from local farmers
- Be mindful of this year’s “Dirty Dozen” when buying produce – these are the fruits and vegetables known to carry the highest amounts of pesticides and should be purchased organic whenever possible
- Plant your own backyard garden to grow your own chemical-free food