By Kris Cameron, ESRAG Plant-Rich Diet Co-Chair

Reducing our consumption of animal foods can make a big difference for climate, environmental and human health, and animal welfare. Learn how at ESRAG’s Plant-Rich Diet Task Force webpage.

Many people realize that manure contamination from industrial animal agriculture facilities contributes to water pollution, fish die-offs, and groundwater contamination. But did you know that fine particulate matter (PM2.5) from these facilities causes air pollution-related health problems as well? Fine particulates contribute to premature deaths from ischemic heart disease, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and lung cancer.

A study by Domingo, et al, cited in the Proceedings of the National Institutes of Health (May 10, 2021), quantifies air quality-related health damages attributable to commodities and final food products that make up over 99% of agricultural production in the U.S. “Agricultural production in the United States results in 17,900 annual air quality-related deaths,” the authors write. “Dietary shifts toward more plant-based foods that maintain protein intake and other nutritional needs could reduce agricultural air quality-related mortality by 68 to 83%.”

Another analysis, published in 2019 in PNAS, reports that “while much of the air pollution policies have focused to date on the electricity sector, damages from farms are now larger than those from utilities. Indeed, farms have become the largest contributor to air pollution damages from PM2.5-related emissions.” 

Animal husbandry is a major source of this air pollution. The documentary film “The Smell of Money” follows one community’s struggle to address this issue.  

Kris Cameron is a member of the Wenatchee Confluence Rotary Club, Washington State, USA.