Major emitters of air pollution often overlooked
A new study compared the public perception of air pollution sources with the real-world situation. This was done through a survey carried out in seven European countries (Austria, Belgium, Germany, Italy, Poland, Sweden and the United Kingdom) and involving more than 16,000 respondents, in which they could choose two main sources/sectors considered as primarily responsible for air pollution out of a list of six options (agriculture, industry, transportation, domestic heating, domestic waste and others).
The top choices by respondents were industry and traffic. But the reality is very different. The main source of particle pollution in six out of the seven countries is agriculture, but this is frequently overlooked since agriculture emits little particle pollution directly. However, ammonia emissions from livestock and fertiliser react in the atmosphere to produce so-called secondary particles.
Domestic solid-fuel burning for home heating was also ranked low in people’s perceptions, but it is a significant source in all seven countries, especially in Poland and Italy.
The researchers concluded that better communication between scientists, politicians, the media and the public is needed.
Source: The Guardian, 15 January 2021
Link to the study “Public perception of air pollution sources across Europe”: https://doi.org/10.1007/s13280-020-01450-5