Health effects of sugarcane burning

PM2.5 concentrations (ug/m3) attributable to sugarcane fires (top, mean for 2012-2018). Mortality rate attributable to sugarcane burning (bottom).

Our new study in Environmental Health Perspectives quantified the impact of smoke from sugarcane fires on mortality in South Florida. As we reported in the paper, these fires likely cause 1-5 deaths per year due to the fine particulate matter (PM2.5) that they produce. The mortality risk is highest for people that live in the sugar growing region, while most of the deaths occur in coastal and inland cities that have high populations.

Our work combined well-established tools to derive these mortality numbers. We synthesized satellite data, surface air quality monitors, state burn permit data, and a 3-D smoke dispersion model to quantify the contribution of sugarcane fires to PM2.5. We then used population and health data from the State of Florida and relative risk functions from peer-reviewed literature to quantify the health impacts. These mortality estimates are based on risk associated with 6 causes of death that are linked to PM2.5 exposure in the general public age 25 and older.

Nowell, H.K., Wirks, C.K., Val Martin, M., van Donkelaar, A., Martin, R.V., Uejio, C.K., Holmes, C.D. (2022) Impacts of prescribed fire on public health in South Florida, Environmental Health Perspectives 130, 087004,

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