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Nitrogen fertilizer is used extensively in the United States to maximize crop yields. As an essential nutrient to plant growth, nitrogen is a critical input to enhance agricultural productivity. However, excess nitrogen can leach into soil and water and contaminate drinking water sources with nitrate, a water-soluble chemical compound of nitrogen. Too much nitrate consumption can pose a health risk. Users of public drinking water supplies and private wells in areas surrounded by farmland are particularly vulnerable to exposure to nitrate in their drinking water.

The workshop Reducing the Health Impacts of the Nitrogen Problem, held over five weekly virtual sessions from January 28 to February 25, 2021, provided a venue to discuss opportunities for reducing exposure to nitrate from agricultural sources in drinking water. More than 50 experts with backgrounds in agriculture, public health, economics, policy, engineering, water, social science, and other fields shared their perspectives through presentations and moderated discussions. This Proceedings of a Workshop-in Brief provides the rapporteurs' high-level summary of the topics and suggestions for potential actions to address challenges surrounding human exposure to nitrate from agricultural sources through drinking water, as discussed at the workshop itself.

Suggested Citation

National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Reducing the Health Impacts of the Nitrogen Problem: Proceedings of a Workshop–in Brief. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

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12 pages |  8.5 x 11 |  DOI:

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