INHALE - Impact on humaN Health of Agriculture and Livestock Emissions
Funded by Fondazione Cariplo under the call for proposals “Data Science for Science and Society”
Project duration: 18 months, starting from September 2021
Air pollution remains Europe's top environmental threat to health, as recently reminded by the European Environmental Agency. Italy is the second EU country for premature deaths from air pollution (PM2.5), with the highest concentration in the affluent and highly populated Po valley. The COVID-19 pandemic has made air pollution more salient, by raising awareness of its devastating effects and amplification of concurrent diseases, including viral ones.
However, it has also made clear the extent to which agriculture and livestock are part of the problem and should likewise be part of the solution.
Starting from these premises, the INHALE project overarching goal is to assess air pollution exposure and impacts attributable to the agricultural sector, and to propose actionable and effective strategies. This objective is achieved through newly collected data, from ARPA Lombardia, on PM10 composition to pin down the air pollution part attributable to agriculture.
The European Environment Agency (EEA) ranks air pollution as the greatest environmental health risk in Europe. Outdoor air pollution alone is responsible for 400 000 premature deaths every year in the EU (EEA 2020). Fine particulate matter (PM2.5) is by far the most damaging of the pollutants with 56 000 premature deaths being attributed to PM2.5 only in Italy, the second highest value amongst the EU-28 member states (EEA 2019). Most of this mortality occurs in the Po Valley region (Greenstone and Fan 2018), a highly industrialized, populated and polluted area.
Although much is known on the emission factors of each of the sub-activities of the agricultural sectors, we still have limited understanding on the magnitude of its effect on the concentration of the aerosols in the Lombard Po Valley region. The analysis proposed by INHALE attempts to fill this knowledge gap by establishing the link between specific sub-sectoral agriculture activities to human exposure to PM. This project sets out to answer: how much PM pollution can be attributable to each type of animal farming? Which crop accounts for most of the PM exposure in the area? What are the sources that most impact concentration and what is the spatial area that they affect. The project will use data science and spatial econometric methods in order to deliver source apportionment reports per sub-agricultural sector.
Furthermore, INHALE will develop a “smart spreading window” policy support tool to complement the methods used by the local authorities in scheduling the agricultural livestock effluents spreading on the fields. This tool will provide smart scheduling of the livestock effluents spreading, minimizing the impact on human exposure. Livestock effluents spreading is the process of spreading liquid slurry and solid manure in livestock farming that is responsible for up to more than 30% of the animal farming NH3 emissions. By learning from past data on defined “spreading windows”, past meteorology and concentration and by testing on future meteorology we can define dynamic realtime smart scheduling of agriculture spreading that minimizes human exposure to PM.
Thus, INHALE delivers innovative data science solutions that allow the assessment of the impacts of the agricultural sector on PM concentrations and on human health. It includes detailed analysis on the contribution of each agricultural sub-sector and process to the PM pollution exposure. Allowing for the identification of the most effective source abatement strategies both in terms of agriculture activities, but also in what concerns the precursors of agricultural secondary PM. INHALE spatial source distributional analysis will provide insights on the areas and sub-sectors that most urgently need intervention in order to avoid the highest possible share of human health impacts.
Bocconi University is a private, independent, non-profit university, and the first Italian institution of higher education to grant a degree in Economics. The project is hosted at GREEN - Centre for Research in Geography, Resources, Environment, Energy and Networks. GREEN research approach is highly multidisciplinary and oriented towards addressing policy relevant issues at local and global scale.
The RFF-CMCC European Institute on Economics and the Environment (EIEE) is a partnership between Fondazione CMCC (see below) and Resources for the Future (RFF, a US based think tank). EIEE’s mission is to improve environmental, energy, and natural resource decisions through impartial economic research and policy engagement. EIEE’s economic and environmental research aims to facilitate the transition to a sustainable, inclusive society. The focus is on climate change related topics, including environmental, energy, natural resource and societal issues.
Legambiente Lombardia is a non-profit organization federated to Legambiente, a wide national organization for Environmental Protection officially recognized by the Ministry of Environment. Legambiente Lombardia performs its activities on a regional basis, with some 100 local groups spreaded in the region. It promotes initiatives against land and soil degradation and for the conservation of natural resources, clean water, climate and air.
- Bosetti Valentina (Principal Investigator of INHALE) - Full professor at the Department of Economics, Bocconi University
- Granella Francesco (Researcher) - PhD student, Bocconi University and Post-Degree researcher, RFF-CMCC European Institute on Economics and the Environment (EIEE)
- Malpede Maurizio (Researcher) - Postdoctoral Researcher, Bocconi University
- Jacopo Lunghi (Researcher) - PhD student, Bocconi University
- Tavoni Massimo (Principal Investigator of INHALE) - Director of the RFF-CMCC European Institute on Economics and the Environment (EIEE) and Full Professor of Climate Economics at Politecnico di Milano
- Aleluia da Silva Reis Lara (Researcher) - Junior researcher of CMCC, under the research division SEME-Sustainable Earth Modelling Economics
- Valenti Silvia (Research Dissemination and Outreach) - Legambiente Lombardia Press Office and Communication manager
- Di Simine Cosimo Damiano (Scientific communication expert) - Scientific coordinator Legambiente Lombardia
Curbing NH3 livestock emissions is possible:
- adapting the number of animals to the company's UAA
- producing biomethane from sewage
- relying on best practices of digestate deployment
- without nitrogen fertilizers (bio-based method)