New Release

Climate Sisters

Dead Zones

Pandemics Ahead: Number 11 in a series looking at the link between animal protein and global health disasters.

Excerpt from Meat Climate Change: The 2nd Leading Cause of Global Warming by Moses Seenarine, (2016). Xpyr Press, 348 pages. ISBN: 0692641157.

The manure from factory farms contains ammonia which is highly toxic to fish at low levels. Escalating the amounts of manure and nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorus from livestock production, can cause algal blooms which block waterways and deplete oxygen as they decompose. This often kills fish and other aquatic organisms, devastating the entire aquatic food chain.(929)

The concentration of nitrate in the ground water supply can reach unhealthy levels. Infants up to three months of age are especially susceptible to high nitrate levels and may develop Blue Baby Syndrome (methemoglobinemia), an often fatal blood disorder.(930) In 1996, the CDC established a link between spontaneous abortions and high nitrate levels in Indiana drinking water wells located close to feedlots.

Almost all the US feed production and industrial farms are concentrated along the Mississippi River basin. A liter of seawater commonly holds around 7 milligrams of dissolved oxygen, but around the mouths of the Mississippi, it holds less than 2 milligrams. The only organisms active here are those that do not depend on oxygen to live. Most summers, between 13,000 to 20,000 sq km (5,000-7,700 sq mi) of sea at the mouth of the Mississippi becomes a "dead zone."(931) 

Nearly 400 dead zones ranging in size from one to over 70,000 sq km (27,000 sq mi) have been identified, from the Scandinavian fjords to the South China Sea. Animal farming is not the only cause, but it is one of the worst. In Asia, pig and chicken feed farms in coastal China, Vietnam, and Thailand regularly pollute the South China Sea. The northern part of the Caspian Sea is loaded with nitrogen that comes down the Volga. Many of the seas surrounding Europe are affected - the Baltic Sea, the Black Sea, the Irish Sea, the Spanish coast, and the Adriatic, all have dead zones.

Not all algal blooms are toxic, but some kinds of algae do produce toxins, such as domoic acid, which is a powerful and fatal neurotoxin. Toxic algal blooms impact the lowest levels of the food chain first, in shellfish and feeder fish that larger marine animals feed on. Even if the toxins do not kill the larger marine animals, toxic algal blooms can wipe out lower levels of the marine food chain and decimate supplies of food that larger marine animals rely on.

Climate change may encourage longer and more frequent blooms of toxic algae along Canada's Pacific coast, impacting marine communities as far north as Alaska with much more consistency than in the past. This is because algae thrive in warmer waters, which both encourage growth in certain kinds of algae and discourage a mixing of ocean waters. And Alaskan waters are some of the most rapidly warming waters in the world, having risen by 3 degrees C in the past decade.(932)

Chapter 25: WASTE POLLUTION, page 241
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