The health threats posed by hog factories are enormous. The toxic emissions caused by millions of gallons of manure and the hundreds of thousands of hogs confined in small areas put people at risk for everything from E Coli1 to respiratory problems.2 Families living near the hog factories suffer acutely.
These neighbors, who either live on farms that have been in their families for generations, or who moved to the country for the clean air, are now confronted by a toxic soup when they open their windows or go outside. Hydrogen sulfide, methane, ammonia, along with other chemicals that bear the odor of rotting meat and feces are all part of the air emissions that neighbors regularly have to breathe.3 In addition, the millions of gallons of hog manure and urine that are stored and eventually spread, untreated, onto fields that are in close proximity to neighbors’ property, carry pathogens, such as Escherichia coli, and chemical contaminants that can severely impact the health of the neighbors, and even cause death.4
Contamination of the groundwater by this untreated waste also can cause people who use water from the contaminated aquifer to sicken, even though they some distance from the original source of the pollution.5
The chemicals and other compounds in the air emissions can produce irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat, and other toxicological effects. They also can induce symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, headaches, and stress. Finally, the compounds emitted by the hog factories can induce inflammation and airway obstruction. People that live in the vicinity of these hog factories often experience chronic respiratory infections, asthma, and colds that will not go away.6
Children, the elderly, individuals with chronic or acute pulmonary or heart disorders are at particular risk. Research conducted by The University of Iowa College of Public Health showed that children living on farms where swine are raised had an increased prevalence of asthma. Furthermore, the study showed that children living on swine farms where antibiotics are added to feed had a significantly higher prevalence of the respiratory disease.7
More than 24 odorous chemicals (often referred to as odorants) have been identified in emissions from confined animal facilities.8 Some of these very odorous compounds are known to be toxic to the nervous system in sufficient concentration.9 Residents living near these facilities suffer increased rates of neurobehavioral symptoms such as depression.10
Death is a very real threat. Infant mortality is significantly higher near animal factories than away from them, and hogs can transmit potentially fatal diseases to humans, such as hepatitis and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus.11
1 Stacy Sneeringer. Does Animal Feeding Operation Pollution Hurt Public Health? A National Longitudinal Study Of Health Externalities Identified By Geographic Shifts In Livestock Production. 91(1) Amer. J. Agr. Econ. 124-137 (February 2009).
2 Amy Chapin. Airborne Multi-drug Resistant Bacteria Isolated from a Concentrated Swine Feeding Operation. 113(2) Environ Health Perspect. 137–142 (February 2005).
3 A Report of the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production. Putting Meat on the Table: Industrial Farm Animal Production in America. 16 (2008).
4 Testimony of Catharine Fitzsimmons on behalf of the National Association of Clean Air Agencies (NACAA) before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee regarding “Human Health, Water Quality and Other Impacts of the Confined Animal Feeding Operation Industry.” 3 (September 6, 2007).
5 David Wallinga, M.D. Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations: Health Risks from Water Pollution. Institute For Agriculture And Trade Policy – Food And Health Program. (August 2004); Pew Commission Report at 11.
6 Pew Commission Report at 17; Kendall M. Thu. Neighbor Health and Large-scale Swine Production. ASH-NET (2001); Iowa State University and The University of Iowa Study Group. Iowa Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations – Air Quality Study: Final Report, at 6. (February 2002); Ibid, Chapter 6-3 at 125.
7 James A. Merchant. Asthma and Farm Exposures in a Cohort of Rural Iowa Children. 113 Environmental Health Perspectives 350-356. (2005).
8 Iowa Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations – Air Quality Study: Final Report, at 6. (February 2002); Ibid, Chapter 6-3 at 143; Pew Commission Report at 17.
9 David Wallinga, M.D. Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations: Health Risks to Farmers and Workers. Institute For Agriculture And Trade Policy – Food And Health Program. (October 2004).
10 Iowa Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations – Air Quality Study: Final Report, at 6. (February 2002).
11 Stacy Sneeringer. Does Animal Feeding Operation Pollution Hurt Public Health? A National Longitudinal Study Of Health Externalities Identified By Geographic Shifts In Livestock Production. 91(1) Amer. J. Agr. Econ. 124-137 (February 2009); Mary J. Gilchrist. The Potential Role of Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations in Infectious Disease Epidemics and Antibiotic Resistance. 115(2) Environmental Health Perspectives 313-316. (February 2007); Angella Bowman. Increased Animal Waste Production from Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs): Potential Impact for Public and Environmental Health. The Nebraska Center for Rural Health Research Occasional Paper Series Number 2, at 4. (January 2000).