Butter – Simple Samples

Butter – Simple Samples

Music; Ambience: Milking

That’s a sound heard round the world someone milking a cow. It produces products that are no less ubiquitous, including butter. Well, it turns out that butter is being used as a way to monitor air pollution worldwide. I’m Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.

KJ: “The important question is: what can we infer from the butter, and how reliable is it as an index, compared to direct ways of measuring or sampling the air?”

Dr. Kevin Jones is a professor of Environmental Science at Lancaster University in England. He says that the plants cows eat absorb the chemical pollutants from the air. These chemicals end up in butter in amounts too small to harm humans, but nonetheless, traceable.

“At the scale of the work we were doing, where we were really asking a very general question – “Are the levels in Africa different from the levels in Europe? Are the levels in the southern hemisphere different from the levels in the northern hemisphere?” We’re very confident that the butter’s giving us a broad index of that.”

Dr. Jones says that butter sampling may lack the specifics of monitoring air samples, but the process still can be useful to those trying to make environmental policy.

“What we’re seeing is that different countries are keen to reduce their emissions of organic pollutants. And, in order to do that, they need to know within their borders, what are the continuing sources of the chemicals. This kind of work, using butter or using other kinds of what I might call passive air samplers, are a way in which we can, fairly quickly and cheaply identify areas of ongoing emission, ongoing sources of chemicals. And then local authorities, the governments and so on can look at measures to evaluate the significance of those sources and perhaps take measures to reduce them.”

Pulse of the Planet is made possible by the National Science Foundation. I’m Jim Metzner.

Butter - Simple Samples

Air pollution monitoring is nothing new, but now scientists are turning to a new source of data: dairy cows.
Air Date:04/04/2013
Scientist:
Transcript:

Butter - Simple Samples

Music; Ambience: Milking

That's a sound heard round the world someone milking a cow. It produces products that are no less ubiquitous, including butter. Well, it turns out that butter is being used as a way to monitor air pollution worldwide. I'm Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.

KJ: "The important question is: what can we infer from the butter, and how reliable is it as an index, compared to direct ways of measuring or sampling the air?"

Dr. Kevin Jones is a professor of Environmental Science at Lancaster University in England. He says that the plants cows eat absorb the chemical pollutants from the air. These chemicals end up in butter in amounts too small to harm humans, but nonetheless, traceable.

"At the scale of the work we were doing, where we were really asking a very general question - "Are the levels in Africa different from the levels in Europe? Are the levels in the southern hemisphere different from the levels in the northern hemisphere?" We're very confident that the butter's giving us a broad index of that."

Dr. Jones says that butter sampling may lack the specifics of monitoring air samples, but the process still can be useful to those trying to make environmental policy.

"What we're seeing is that different countries are keen to reduce their emissions of organic pollutants. And, in order to do that, they need to know within their borders, what are the continuing sources of the chemicals. This kind of work, using butter or using other kinds of what I might call passive air samplers, are a way in which we can, fairly quickly and cheaply identify areas of ongoing emission, ongoing sources of chemicals. And then local authorities, the governments and so on can look at measures to evaluate the significance of those sources and perhaps take measures to reduce them."

Pulse of the Planet is made possible by the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner.