Let’s See How Bad Ammonia Pollution In United Kingdom Nowadays

Let’s See How Bad Ammonia Pollution In United Kingdom Nowadays

Ammonia has been polluting United Kingdom at an alarming rate. But wait, is ammonia a pollutant? It is, in some cases. Ammonia is indeed widely known as nitrogen-containing nutrient for plant growth. However, un-ionized form of ammonia is toxic to aquatic life, while simply high concentration of it is toxic to organisms on land.

In this story we are talking about how ammonia has been polluting the land of United Kingdom, and thus we know that it is about high concentration of ammonia in the soil. About 60% of the kingdom’s land area has been polluted with ammonia. And to make it worse, it has been hitting the most sensitive habitats for plants and wildlife.

Even worse, study also claimed that the government has no clear plans to monitor the impacts of ammonia pollution and solve this problem. If this situation keeps getting worse, it may even lead to the worst case scenario.

Whoa, seem like awfully serious matter, doesn’t it? Where did this high concentration of ammonia come from? How did it affect the habitats and the organisms within? Here in this article we are going to talk about this case.

Above Level

Slurry Tank 2 (Geograph)

Unmonitored ammonia emission in United Kingdom caused the entire area to have high concentration of it higher than it should be. In example, more than 85% of England and more than 88% of Northern Ireland receive ammonia concentration above critical level.

Not only that, the data also stated that half of Wales and a fifth of Scotland are also affected. It poses huge threat to lichens, mosses, liverworts, and similar plants in the area. We know that those plants are keystone species whose presence is vital to protect the cycle of environment.

Another study conducted by researchers from Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs found that the case is worst in England. The study found that 95% of sensitive sites like areas of conservation and special protected areas are affected.

Similar study conducted in other surrounding countries found that 89% of Wales’ sensitive sites are affected, while 85% of Northern Ireland’s sensitives sites are affected. Scotland ranked lowest in this study with ‘only’ 40% of the country’s sites.

High concentration of ammonia is closely related to land acidification, which will not only kill sensitive plants, but even stronger ones too. To make it worse, the government still doesn’t seem to monitor or planning to reduce ammonia pollution across UK.


slurry_lagoon (Geograph)

First question we want to answer is, where did such amount of ammonia come from and how can it pollutes our soil and atmosphere? Our needs for meats and dairy products apparently have brought us to this condition.

In United Kingdom, there are thousands of farmlands spread all around the area that produces thousands of tons of feces and urine every day. It releases big amount of ammonia gas into the atmosphere, which will become toxic when combining with other particles in the atmosphere.

A study conducted by Bureau of Investigate Journalism revealed this fact. Among eight dairy units tested in the UK, they discovered three ammonia hotspots. The dairy units tested were six intensive units housing cattle, one farm where the confinement unit permanently houses some of the herd, and another farm with dairy cows grazing.

Two of the ammonia hotspots were found in the intensive units, and the other came from outdoor dairy farm. The sources varied, starting from uncovered slurry tank, the farmyard, around farm buildings, and around waste lagoon.

It shows that ammonia emission management is still not fulfilled by many farmlands in UK no matter what kind of farmland it is, and it poses us to serious problem. Again, we think we should tell you that the government seems like showing no clear plans to monitor and control the pollution level.

Toxic Slurry

Slurry (Geograph)

So, we know that our land is acidifying because of ammonia pollution, while we keep on adding more ammonia to the environment from our farmlands. It is all done over the fact that thousands of deaths occur annually caused by ammonia poisoning.

In United Kingdom, the vast majority of ammonia gas comes from slurry, a mixture of feces and urine produced in farmlands. Slurry is often collected in lagoons near the farmlands to be further used as fertilizer for the land.

However, data shows that uncovered slurry lagoons release huge amount of ammonia gas into the atmosphere, especially when the sun shines on it. Ammonia is a highly reactive compound and it can easily mix with industrial and car fumes.

In this case, it will produce a particulate matter we usually call PM 2.5. “PM2.5 is probably responsible for somewhere between half and three quarters of the total harm we derive as humans from air pollution,” said Alastair Lewis, atmospheric chemistry professor at National Centre for Atmospheric Science.

Yes, ammonia plays a huge part in the formation of deadly air pollutants. “Ammonia is playing a lead role in this fine particle formation and the reduction of it could really improve the air quality,” said Andrea Pozzer from Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Mainz.

Clean Air Strategy

Slurry Tank (Geograph)

Cutting down ammonia emission is actually as simple as covering the slurry tanks and injecting the mixture into fields instead of spraying it. Even though it cost a little bit more money, but it has been proven effective since countries in Europe are already practicing this method.

Instead of copying the method, Secretary of State for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs, Michael Gove, once promised to introduce Clean Air Strategy to tackle this ammonia problem in UK. He also called that cattle ‘megafarms’ would be closed by 2025 for further guarantee that he has a plan.

However, as we repetitively said that the government seems like have no plans at all in this, Gove’s promises seems empty. Up until now, there seems no specific action taken by the government to monitor or regulate farms. There is only a ‘guidance’ distributed to farmers containing how they can contribute to this project.

“We have already published guidance on how farmers can take action and will consult later this year on policy to reduce emissions from urea fertilizers, the first in a series of rules to reduce ammonia emissions from farming,” a spokesperson for department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said.

When will United Kingdom realize about the situation, and what will they actually do to tackle it?







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