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Governments, industries and farmers across the world must join together to tackle the ‘major unsolved challenge’ of nitrogen pollution, experts told a World Environment Day summit in India today (June 4).

Nitrogen poses multiple threats to human health and the environment, as it is simultaneously contributing to poor air and water quality plus climate change.

Some 80% of the nitrogen from fertilizers and manure is lost to the atmosphere and water courses, which is compounded by emissions from vehicles and factories. Added up, these flows cause a cocktail of worsening nitrogen pollution.

Nitrogen is the largest fraction of PM2.5 (particulate matter) air pollution that gets deep in to lungs and contributes to cardiovascular and respiratory illness, while in drinking water it increases the risk of cancer.

Nitrogen pollution through the air, water and soil is also a major cause of loss of biodiversity. For example, it stimulates growth of certain plantlife such as rough grasses at the expense of more sensitive species with a high conservation value and also increases algal blooms, which cause the death of fish by reducing oxygen levels in water.

Despite all this, there has been little global action to tackle the problem, according to Prof Mark Sutton of the UK’s

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