VEGA News Item

There's Something in the Air - 23/12/2004
Breath testing the (questionnably fresh air). We take the opportunity to comment in consultations on some od the official testing and monitoring surveillance of emissions into the atmosphere-stinkers and insidious and indicators of avoidable pollution
Draft UK report regarding plans and programmes to achieve limit values set by the first air quality daughter directive (2004 reporting year)

The UK, especially England, has many areas over which the atmosphere is affected by varying demands of industrial, transportation, and farming and fishing activities as well as by the amenities of habitation and leisure. Restraints and monitoring must also take account of global imperatives and examples and on the well being of wildlife and of animals of all species, as well as of our own. The purview includes, as your documents recognise, vegetation.

We consider below some topics that require monitoring and possible action and legislation. They extend beyond possible nuisances perceived by human senses of smell and to plumes of volatiles concentrated in certain localities and with specific activities.

Some of these environmental changes may not be harmful, except for smells rating no more than nuisances. However, the senses of smell can be regarded as a defence mechanism that can be ignored by familiarity
(e.g. in acute and chronic reactions to hydrogen sulfide) and by differences of reactions in species and genotypes (e.g. by pheromones and lures) and in the “organic” practices of allopathy Health and Safety at Work regulations may offer clues to emissions with wider consequences in the quality of the air in the environs of centres of concentrated and intensified human activity (e.g. factories, farms, laboratories, airports, and other transport systems). Levels of heavy metals, especially mercury, in emissions from crematoria illustrate the need for site-directed surveillance.

Specialised observations follow:

1. Methane and other Hydrocarbons
Methane, like carbon dioxide, must rate as a significant factor in climate change requiring measurement and monitoring. Concentrations would be expected to be raised at sites of microbiological activity (fermentation), e.g. farms (e.g. emissions from animals and practices such as silage-making and in disposals of slurries and manure, especially from dairy-herds). Land-fills are becoming an increasing source of
unrecovered gaseous emissions. Although ruminants are regarded as prime sources of mammalian emissions of methane (owing to their fermentative foregut), non-ruminants (including humans of certain genotypes), having anaerobic and fermentative hindguts, also generate methane (and hydrogen). Many of these emissions must also derive from wildlife and over wetlands and bogs and must be accounted for in changes of use and cultivation, as well as in means of capture and recycling.

2. Ammonia and Other Farming Emissions
Intensive farming and waste disposal are plagued by production of ammonia; curbing such generation and improved ventilation practice are crucial for the relief of cruelty in housed animals, and the emissions remain of hazard in the air in the environs of such premises. The miasma overhanging intensive farms can extend to a national dimension. Arrivals from London to airports in Ireland or the Netherlands confront the traveller with the pervading smells of the intensive live /dead stock industries-of cattle in Ireland and pigs in the Netherlands. There is more than ammonia in those smells. Modern niceties and scientific analysis decry suspicions over even traditional organic attitudes to muck and farmyard manure, with requirements that such fermentations should be accomplished by good husbandry without nuisance;
however, reservations remain over emissions such as these that may contain undesirable components undetectable by the human nose.

3.Pollen, Farming, Agricultural and Industrial Dusts.
Pollen counts are carried out on ad hoc bases, but without, as far as we can tell, collation of the results and determination of the consequences in terms of agronomy, sylviculture, and horticulture, as well as the conditions and susceptibilities of people and of their companion animals, at least. The environs of cement factories illustrate industrial enterprises that call for monitoring and recording for public inspection.

4. Sulfur in the Atmosphere
Airborne sulfur comes in various speciations, one of which is sulfur dioxide.
In other forms and smells sulfur circulates in the air, many probably in a diminishing way, as evidenced now by the applications of sulfur in fertilizers to crops such as oilseed rape that hitherto needed no addition to inputs from deposits or industrial pollution. Growing crops in their turn demand and generate desired sulfur-containing ingredients, especially in the Brassicas and certain plants of the onion family(Alliaceae) emit sulfurous fumes apparently as a means of defence against predation: it appears also that in allelopathic practices, now regaining favour as alternatives to
widespread use of synthetic pesticides, they may be used in intercropping systems to protect a main crop. Although this practice appears superficially to be of benefit to the human population, the full specificity of the toxic principles has not, as far as we know been assessed; therefore it needs measurement, interpretation, and explanation.

5. Spotlight on Halogens
5.1 Halogens (essentially fluorine, chlorine, bromine, and iodine) have ill-repute in some organic speciations, Examples are volatile: refrigerants such as chlorofluoro-compounds of low molecular weight and methyl bromide used as a fumigant, with many applications in farming and industry. Organo-chloro-residues are environmental consequences of farming practices and development dire corollaries in the food chain. We note these matters calling for surveillance.
5.2 Emissions from brick-making furnaces e.g. in Bedforshire emit sour smells and fumes and deposits on pastures that result in fluorosis in dairy-cows grazing there. Milk from any cows grazing affected land (or conserved grass from it) should therefore be kept from the food chain. Adverse effects on the livestock (and their output) kept in fields near various incinerator plants have been reported to us. In such instances there is no close human habitation; however, the situation needs monitoring and clarification.
5.3 Seaside smells due to “healthy” ozone also need examination-and urgently if the emissions are really due to persistent levels of ozone gas. We surmise, with some supporting evidence, that rotting seaweed generates volatile alkyl iodides that could include carcinogenic compounds and other irritants. Likewise, the air over oceans is likely to contain such compounds (and some sulfurous substances) derived by bacterial processes of oxidative halogenation, which could affect coastal areas when onshore winds are blowing. Monitoring and assessments seem necessary.

6.Airborne Microorganisms and Other Pathogens
Current and past experiences with epidemics of influenza, foot and mouth disease, swine fevers, and bird-borne zoonotic diseases such as salmonella, as well as tick-borne afflictions such as Lyme disease (borrelliosis) indicate needs for monitoring precautions, control of farming practices, land management and ecology.


Registered Charity No. 1045293
© VEGA - 2008