A new study conducted by researchers at British Geological Survey has revealed that nitrates chemicals from farm fertilisers are wreaking havoc, as reported by BBC News.
The chemicals are believed to be causing damage to the rocks and resultantly, rivers, water supplies, human health and the economy will be impacted worldwide.
The team of researchers have said that the nitrate will be released from the rocks into rivers via springs, causing algal blooms and fish deaths, as a result, having a financial impact due to water treatment requirements.
BGS and Lancaster University scientists have estimated that 180 million tonnes of nitrate are stored in rocks right around the globe, data published in Nature Communications revealed. It is believed that this figure could be in the region of double when reviewing the amount stored in soils.
The scientists have issued a warning and they have fears that over time, the nitrate will slowly seep into aquifers.
Europe is among one of the regions identified that possess large quantities of nitrate, along with North America and China, due to fertiliser application practices.
The problem is not as large-scaled in developing countries, with the amount of nitrate store in the rocks in developing countries increasing despite new and improved farming methods and rules to control the pollutant.
Matthew Ascott, a hydrogeologist at BGS and lead author told BBC news that it is “vital” that it is understood “what pollution is already in the environment.”
“Water and the pollutant travels through the rocks below our feet very slowly. This and a history of intensive agriculture means that a large store of nitrate pollution has built up over time.” Mr Ascott told BBC News.
“When this pollution is released, it will continue to impact water quality for decades and in some cases, even where controls on fertiliser use have been put in place. ” Matthew added.
This is called a ‘nitrate timebomb’.
Efforts are currently being made by the EU in order to control the careless application of nitrates, but farmers have responded by saying hat fertilisers are vital for Agricultural productivity.