Air pollution deal gives hope in fixing major public health problem

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A potentially far-reaching deal has been sealed that could result in lower levels of air pollution that causes life-threatening diseases.

The multilateral talks were coordinated by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe and target ammonia emissions from farming.

The UN agency's Alisher Mamadzhanov explained why the emissions are so lethal:

"They contribute to the formation of particulate matter and so-called fine particulate matter so-called PM2.5 which is especially dangerous because it can penetrate deep into the lungs; it has been identified by WHO as one of the leading causes of premature deaths, and air pollution as a whole is the leading cause now of premature death in the pan-European region, it accounts for 600,000 premature deaths annually and globally seven million."

Agriculture is the focus of deal because it accounted for 84 per cent of total ammonia emissions in the UNECE region in 2012.

The new agreement provides countries with a five-point practical plan on how to reduce their toxic output.

Ammonia, or NH3 to give it its chemical compound, comes from animal manure and nitrogen fertilizers.

The UN agency says that about 80 per cent of nitrogen is wasted through leaching and run-off.

And it says that releasing ammonia into the air is dangerous because it contributes to the formation of particulate matter which causes cardiovascular and respiratory disease.

It's also responsible for soil acidification and damaging vulnerable ecosystems, UNECE maintains.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations

Duration: 1"31

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