Residential Proximity to Biorefinery Sources of Air Pollution and Respiratory Diseases in New York State

Environ Sci Technol. 2021 Jul 20;55(14):10035-10045. doi: 10.1021/acs.est.1c00698. Epub 2021 Jul 7.


Understanding potential health risks associated with biofuel production is critical to sustainably combating energy insecurity and climate change. However, the specific health impacts associated with biorefinery-related emissions are not yet well characterized. We evaluated the relationship between respiratory emergency department (ED) visits (2011-2015) and residential exposure to biorefineries by comparing 15 biorefinery sites to 15 control areas across New York (NY) State. We further examined these associations by biorefinery types (e.g., corn, wood, or soybean), seasons, and lower respiratory disease subtypes. We measured biorefinery exposure using residential proximity in a cross-sectional study and estimation of biorefinery emission via AERMOD-simulated modeling. After controlling for multiple confounders, we consistently found that respiratory ED visit rates among residents living within 10 km of biorefineries were significantly higher (rate ratios (RRs) range from 1.03 to 3.64) than those in control areas across our two types of exposure indices. This relationship held across biorefinery types (higher in corn and soybean biorefineries), seasons (higher in spring and winter), air pollutant types (highest for NO2), and respiratory subtypes (highest for emphysema). Further research is needed to confirm our findings.

Keywords: air pollution; biorefineries; cleaner energy; exposure measurement; residential exposure; respiratory health.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollutants* / adverse effects
  • Air Pollutants* / analysis
  • Air Pollution* / analysis
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects
  • Environmental Exposure / analysis
  • Humans
  • New York / epidemiology
  • Particulate Matter / analysis


  • Air Pollutants
  • Particulate Matter