Study Shows Health Costs of Environmental Damage from Corn Production

A study from the University of Minnesota, published in Nature Sustainability, shows that health damages caused by corn production result in 4,300 premature deaths annually in the United States. The study considered pollution emissions, pollution transport by wind, and human exposure to increased air pollution levels. It also found that the damage to human health of producing a bushel of corn differs from region to region. The study revealed that in some areas, the monetary value of health damages from corn production are greater than the corn’s market price. On average, health damages from reduced air quality total $3.07 per bushel of corn. This paper also estimates life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions of corn production, finding total climate change damages of $4.9 billion, or $0.38 per bushel of corn. The study’s results suggest potential benefits from improving nitrogen-use efficiency, switching to crops requiring less fertilizer, and changing the location where corn is grown.