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Air Pollution From Corn Production Might Contribute to Thousands of Deaths Each Year

The effects of agricultural practices on human health shouldn't be overlooked.

Lend your “ears” to this: A new study published this week in Nature found that America’s corn belt could contribute to thousands of air pollution deaths a year.

Scientists at the University of Minnesota attributed around 4,300 premature American deaths annually to air pollution resulting from corn production. To do so, they modeled the emission impacts of producing corn and compared them to local pollution-related deaths—and they found a striking relationship.

“You think air quality and you think coal plants, and you think dirty diesel trucks,” says Jason Hill, an engineering professor at the University of Minnesota and the study’s lead author. “Certainly both of those are major contributors to reduced air quality, but corn production? Yes, that too.”

Corn is the most widely produced feed grain in the U.S., taking up over 90 million acres of farmland mainly located in the Midwest and Great Plains.

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