Let’s face it: Los Angeles smog is infamous. Along with Hollyweird, traffic, and more traffic, it’s one of city’s most notable characteristics. You might be surprised to learn however, that the haze hanging over the City of Angels skyline isn’t just from car-clogged freeways and smokestacks—it’s also from cows.
New research reveals that animal waste from dairy farms produces so much ammonia, it’s responsible for at least half of the Los Angeles smog. Dairy cows produce about 120 pounds of wet manure each day (that amount is equivalent to about 20-40 people, according to the EPA). This waste quickly adds up and it has to go somewhere, so factory farms often collect it all in enormous open cesspools the industry pleasantly refers to as “lagoons.” As this stagnating waste breaks down, massive amounts of ammonia are released, along with billions of pounds of other climate changing gases, into the atmosphere every year.
It gets worse: Because of the location, type, and nature of the ammonium nitrate formation, these emissions can be up to three times more concentrated than those from cars.
To avoid seeing an increase in sore throats and respiratory problems, such as asthma, in the Los Angeles population, the researchers suggest that dairy operations start utilizing ammonia reducing practices such as waste treatment (adding more chemicals to the lagoons), covered storage for waste, and dietary changes for the cows who are fed an unnatural diet of crude protein instead of the grass for which their stomachs are designed.
These solutions may help mitigate some of the problems, but what about addressing the real issue? Not only are dairy factory farms polluting the planet and making us sick, but studies have shown that drinking milk can actually be harmful to our bodies as well. The dairy industry is also responsible for causing a tremendous amount of animal suffering.
Choosing delicious, dairy-free alternatives is the simplest and most effective remedy for our lungs, cows, and the planet—not to mention the 4 million Los Angelenos living downwind!