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Rich nations might be causing high nitrogen pollution in developing countries

Speed News Desk | Updated on: 14 February 2017, 5:29 IST

Rich nations are leaving a deep footprint in the developing countries, in form of potentially dangerous nitrogen pollution - which is released during the manufacturing process.

This was revealed in a study published with the journal Nature Geoscience.

Reactive nitrogen, is mainly generated in large amount by fuel combustion and agriculture ( fertiliser use) adding to air and water pollution, climate change and acid rain.

The study also highlighted that many developed nations had a sky-high nitrogen pollution "footprint".

A "footprint" is the amount of reactive nitrogen emitted during the production, consumption and transportation of goods and services used in a particular country, regardless of where production takes place.

"High-income nations are responsible for more than 10 times the emissions of the poorest nations," study co-author Arunima Malik of the University of Sydney said in a statement.

Emissions per person ranged from over 100 kilogrammes (220 pounds) per year in nations like Hong Kong and Luxembourg, to less than seven kilogrammes in Papua New Guinea, Ivory Coast and Liberia.

According to the study, these differences reflect wealthy consumers' preference for animal products and highly processed food. Therefore, the substantial local nitrogen pollution is driven by demand from consumers in other countries.

Commenting on the paper, James Galloway of the University of Virginia and Allison Leach of the University of New Hampshire, pointed out that developed countries such as Japan, Germany, Britain and the US had a reactive nitrogen footprint "twice as large as the amount... directly released in their own countries."

"For countries such as the United States, if consumers ate according to the national and international protein recommendations and reduced food waste by 50 per cent, their total nitrogen footprint would decrease by over 35 per cent," the duo wrote.

First published: 26 January 2016, 11:20 IST