India has a pollution problem – and it’s gotten so bad that it’s killing off vast fields of crops that could feed millions of the country’s most vulnerable residents. A new study published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters shows ground-level ozone, which is the main component in smog, damages roughly 6.7 million tons of India’s food staples like wheat and rice in a single year. The shows that the lost crops are worth about $1.3 billion and could feed about 94 million people – about a third of the country’s poor.
Surface ozone comes from vehicle emissions, cooking stoves and industrial facilities, and it has long been known to affect human health – but the discovery of its effects on vegetation raises a new alarm. Collete Heald, one of the study’s authors noted in a press release that agricultural production is “very sensitive to ozone pollution,” so it’s important to consider the “agricultural implications of air quality regulations.” Study co-author and professor of climate and atmospheric sciences at the University of California San Diego, Veerbhadran Ramanathan said that the sheer amount of lost crops “surprised” him and his colleagues.
Related: Delhi’s Air Pollution is Even Worse Than Beijing’s Smog
Another recent study by MIT and Colorado State University Researchers showed that a combination of climate change and ground level ozone might pose a serious threat to global food supplies in the decades to come.
If there’s any prime location to study for the effects of pollution, it’s India – according to the Huffington Post, the air in New Delhi has been found to be the most polluted in the world, and Time magazine recently said the air there has become a “lethal hazard.”
Via Huffington Post
Images via mrbula and dey, Flickr Creative Commons