Study reveals your nitrogen footprint – and who it is impacting
Developed countries usually imported their nitrogen-releasing products from elsewhere. As such, countries like Japan, Germany, the UK and the US had per-capita nitrogen footprints twice as large as the amount they produced locally. The one exception was Australia, which exported a lot of livestock, meaning it exported more of those products than it consumed locally.
And because the researchers used databases showing exactly where the products were produced, and a model that showed exactly where the pollution moved through the environment, they were able to drill down to show precisely how one group’s actions impacted another.
For example, Tulare county in California produces a lot of dairy and cattle, much of which is exported to Japan. As a result of that industry, 15% of residents, many of whom are from a Latino background, were exposed to drinking water with fertiliser- and manure-derived nitrogen of more than half the maximum contaminant level, which could cause health problems, especially to newborn babies.