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From intensive farms more smog than from cars. Greenpeace: «The state and the EU finance green agriculture»

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Air pollution plays a role in respiratory diseases and is likely to be a major risk factor for coronavirus. In Lombardy and Emilia Romagna the role of industrial farms is crucial

It is still uncertain, and even today the Higher Institute of Health (ISS) reiterated it, a direct correlation between air pollution and the spread of coronavirus, for example the fact that the particulate matter present in the atmosphere can be a vector for long-distance transport of the Sars-Cov-2. However, there are several studies underway internationally (Sergio Harari had spoken about it in Corriere della Sera in recent days).

It is instead established, and not from today, that pollution has a negative impact on human health and that it causes infections and respiratory diseases that can be a greater risk factor in the presence of an epidemic, effectively acting as an amplifier of its effects .

The two Italian regions most affected by Covid-19 cases are Lombardy and Emilia Romagna and these are also among the most polluted, penalized by a territory closed to the south, west and north by mountain ranges that do not facilitate the replacement of the air, to whose poor quality various factors contribute: the presence of numerous production activities; the high population density resulting from a massive use of heating systems and cars; and a large number of intensive farms, which have a non-secondary role in the production of particulates. And this is precisely the focus of the report released today by Greenpeace in collaboration with the Higher Institute for Research and Environmental Protection.

The role of farms

In the Po Valley, highlights the study prepared by the investigative unit of the environmental association, smog is produced not only by nitrogen and sulfur oxides but also, and significantly, by ammonia which, released into the atmosphere, is combined with those same components generating fine dust, the notorious pm10 and pm2.5. This highly volatile ammonia derives largely from the sewage from farms, through the practice of spreading on the land as a fertilizer (and sometimes for simple disposal).

The research takes into consideration several scientific studies and reports, among others, an evaluation of the Arpa Lombardia according to which the ammonia coming from the farms "contributes on average to a third of the Region's particulates, but during acute episodes this contribution increases exceeding the 50 percent of the total. " ARPA also found that the secondary particulate component, the one generated also by livestock, is on average lower in December and January, a period in which the spreading of sewage is normally prohibited, while it has high peaks in February -March and October-November when this practice is more widespread.

The possible solutions

How do you get out of it?

According to Ispra, on the heating front, it is important to overcome the use of wood fuel, which is back in fashion with the spread of fireplaces and pellet stoves.

As for livestock, "covering the waste tanks would already be able to significantly reduce ammonia emissions". It is then suggested that the state provides incentives to allow farmers to purchase technologies that allow more limited spreading of fertilizer, both chemical and organic. Not only. "Municipalities should establish what is the maximum number of farms and livestock that can be raised on their territories - suggests Riccardo De Lauretis, head of the emissions and prevention of air pollution area of Ispra -.

Otherwise the damage will affect the citizens ".

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