For the last five years, scientists across Europe have chronicled the little-known nitrogen dilemma and the threats it poses to our environment and health – as well as how we can solve the problem.
The European Nitrogen Assement (ENA) is the first time that the multiple threats of nitrogen pollution, including contributions to climate change and biodiversity loss, have been valued in economic terms at a continental scale. As well as identifying key threats the assessment also identifies the geographical areas at greatest risk of damage by nitrogen pollution. The report provides EU policymakers with a comprehensive scientific assessment on the consequences of failing to address the problem of nitrogen pollution – and outlines key actions that can be taken to reduce the problem to protect environmental and public health.
Key messages from the assessment include:
- At least ten million people in Europe are potentially exposed to drinking water with nitrate concentrations above recommended levels.
- Nitrates cause toxic algal blooms and dead zones in the sea, especially in the North, Adriatic and Baltic seas and along the coast of Brittany.
- Nitrogen-based air pollution from agriculture, industry and traffic in urban areas contributes to particulate matter air pollution, which is reducing life expectancy by several months across much of central Europe.
- In the forests atmospheric nitrogen deposition has caused at least 10% loss of plant diversity over two-thirds of Europe.