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Air Pollution From Factory Farms
Grace Factory Farm Project

What's Really Polluting Our Rural Skies?

  • Air pollution from hog operations are emitted by barns, lagoons, pits, slurries and land application. Noxious gases have been detected four miles downwind that are as intense as at a lagoon. Heavy accumulations occur most frequently between 6-8 a.m. and 7-9 p.m. Even small levels of odors and gas molecules can produce strong reactions in humans. Roof shingles, siding, fabrics and other material can trap odors and release them when conditions are right Workers can become desensitized because the molecules tie up their olfactory nerves. (Susan Schiffman, Duke University Swine Odor Task Force)
  • "A new study on human health effects of living near industrial hog operations has found that people living near large hog farms suffer significantly higher levels of upper respiratory and gastrointestinal ailments than people living near other farming areas. The study was done by the University of North Carolina, School of Public Health." (Kansas Rural Papers, May 1999)
  • Symptoms of exposure to hog gases include, "more tension, more depression, more anger, less vigor, more fatigue, and more confusion" (Susan Schiffman, Duke University)
  • Other symptoms reported from exposure to gases emitted by hog facilities, "may elicit nausea, vomiting and headache, cause shallow breathing and coughing; upset stomach and loss of appetite; irritated eyes, nose and throat; disturb, annoy and depress -Overcash etal 1984 (Understanding the Impacts of Large-Scale Swine Production, June 1996)
  • "People have symptoms, legitimate symptoms. You can't deny them," Kelley Donham, director of the University of Iowa's Center for Agricultural Safety and Health. Ammonia and sulfide are tremendous intoxicants. Ammonia can burn eyes and lungs. Dust can aggravate asthma. "Ammonia from the farm rises into the atmosphere, returning as rain." "Some dust can carry organisms - one pathogen associated with stomach cancer has been found in manure." (Des Moines Register, 10-25-98)
  • Evidence suggests that bioaeorosols (dander, feed, excreta and bedding) are associated with microbial pathogens of swine. These "can be carried and spread on dust." "Contrary to odors, many gases are odorless and tasteless, making them benign since they are difficult to detect with the human nose." Odor and gases are different, but both contribute to decreased quality of life of neighbors (Controlling Odor and Gaseous Emmision Problems from Industrial Swine Facilities, Yale Environmental Protection Clinic, Spring 1998)
  • Hydrogen Sulfide, found in swine waste gases, "Is considered to be an insidious poison because our sense of smell rapidly fatigues, and therefore, fails to provide a good warning of gas concentration." Symptoms include eye and upper respiratory irritation headaches, and dizziness. Higher concentrations can cause "severe eye and respiratory tract irritation, acute conjunctivitis, lacrimation, and difficulty breathing, as well as a sudden loss of consciousness: (Safety Net, UC Davis Environmental Health and Safety, 2-1993
  • During agitation of liquid manure, the concentration of hydrogen sulfide in the breathing zone of workers can climb to lethal levels within seconds (University of Iowa, 1995)
  • People exposed to hydrogen sulfide at nuisance levels for prolonged periods - showed chronic neurobehavioral impairment (loss of balance, memory and reaction time) months to years afterwards. Conclusion: Exposure to hydrogen sulfide must be avoided (Southern Medical Journal, 1997)
  • Residents living within 2 miles of a 4,000 hog confinement reported significantly more respiratory problems than other residents (Institute for Rural and Environmental Health, Univ. of Iowa, 1997)
  • When ambient air quality standards for livestock are exceeded, neighbors may experience: eye, nose, and throat irritation, headache, nausea, diarrhea, hoarseness, sore throat, cough, chest tightness, nasal congestion, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, stress, drowsiness, and mood alterations (Minnesota Department of Public Health, 2001
  • Residents in the vicinity of an approximately 6,000-head hog confinement reported increased occurrences of headaches, runny nose, sore throat, excessive coughing, diarrhea, and burning eyes as compared to residents of the community with no livestock operations (School of Public Health, University of North Carolina, 1999)
  • Existing data provide evidence for potential adverse health effects due to hydrogen Sulfide concentrations. Property line monitoring data indicate that 43 violations in August posed a threat to human health (Minnesota Department od Public Health, 2000)
  • Research from South Sioux City, Nebraska found reports of respiratory problems in children increased 20 to 40 percent when hydrogen sulfide levels in the air exceeded 30ppb (Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, 2002)

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