There is a host of recent research showing that toxic air emissions from Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) can adversely affect human health. One such state suffering from the toxic effects of CAFOs is Iowa. Iowa’s livestock churn out an estimated 60 million tons of fecal matter each year that accumulates in liquid form in pits beneath the confinement building – or in sewage lagoons outside. North Carolina has banned outside manure lagoons.
The 3,000 lactating Holstein milk cows on the Wildcat Dairy in Central Texas produce 150 pounds of waste each day totaling more than 200 million pounds of urine-soaked manure a year. That’s right. Two hundred million pounds of fecal matter from one dairy farm in a year. Multiply this by the number of CAFO dairy farms in the U.S. and it is a lot of …. This problem only exists on and because of factory farming (CAFOs). And it exists in every state where CAFOs operate.
According to Dr. Francis Thicke, an Iowa farmer, “When hogs are on pasture, their manure is dispersed on the soil and is aerobically decomposed, so putrid compounds do not form.” The smells from free range farming dissipate and do not lead to illnesses.
There are other health risks associated with CAFOs. In 1995, an eight-acre hog waste lagoon in North Carolina burst, releasing 25 million gallons of hog refuse into Onslow County. The spill killed as many as 10 million fish and closed 364,000 acres of coastal wetlands to shell fishing.
Smaller spills are also common. For example in 1996, 40 spills in Iowa, Minnesota, and Missouri killed close to 700,000 fish. Indiana CAFOs caused a total of 2,391 manure spills in 1997. In 1998, a 100,000-gallon spill killed close to 700,000 fish in Minnesota’s Beaver Creek. North Carolina has the heaviest concentration of animals in one place in the world while Iowa still has the distinction of being the nation’s No. 1 pork producer. CAFO hogs in that region produce more fecal waste each day than 100 million people. This does not include cattle, dairy cows, chickens or sheep.
The problem is occurring across our nation despite industry claims that factory farms are clean and there are only a few bad apples. To the contrary, every state with CAFOs is considering legislation to control the smells, manure pools and unsanitary conditions such as those at the Wright County Egg Farm in Iowa that caused 550 million eggs to be recalled because of Salmonella. Here are a few examples.
Southern hog, poultry, beef and dairy CAFOs have become notorious in recent decades for overloading sewage ponds and for spraying excessive waste on land and in forests, where it runs off into streams and wetlands. There is little regulation in the deep South which permits factory farms to operate with impunity. Their discharges frequently cause the local fish to be contaiminated and uneatable.
A 1995 North Carolina study found that residents who lived near a CAFO reported increased negative mood states, including tension, depression, anger, fatigue, confusion, and reduced vigor. A 1997 Iowa study found that both farm workers and community residents reported higher rates of chest tightness, wheezing, runny nose, scratchy throat, burning eyes, headaches and plugged ears.
After the second record-setting spill in Onslow County, North Carolina imposed a moratorium on new hog CAFOs. The moratorium is currently in place and the subject of a new book, Animal Factory: The Looming Threat of Industrial Pig, Dairy and Poultry Farms to Humans and the Environment by David Kirby.
A 2000 North Carolina study found that people living in proximity to a 6,000-head CAFO reported increased rates of headaches, runny nose, sore throat, excessive coughing, diarrhea and burning eyes.
According to a 2002 joint study by Iowa State University and the University of Iowa, the manure pits become putrid, polluting the air with particulate matter and many gases—including ammonia and hydrogen sulfide—that lead to a wide range of health complaints. Exposure to hydrogen sulfide is known to cause nausea, headaches, diarrhea and even life-threatening pulmonary edema. The study pointed out that CAFO workers also run an extremely high risk of developing respiratory diseases including asthma, acute bronchitis, sinusitis, and rhinitis.
The 2002 study concluded that “CAFO air emission may constitute a public health hazard and that precautions should be taken to minimize both specific chemical exposures (hydrogen sulfide and ammonia) and mixed exposures (including odor) arising from CAFOs.”
Some rural homeowners in the South have organized to combat CAFOs that handle their wastes negligently and degrade the quality of life in surrounding communities. Sadly in other states such as Indiana, Mitch Daniels ran for governor in 2004 and vowed to double pork production. After he won, he opened the state to out-of-state industrial factory farm operations (CAFOs) such as North Carolina-based Maxwell Farms, which had been stymied by that state’s moratorium on CAFOs. Unable to trash North Carolina’s environment anymore, they moved on to Indiana where the governor didn’t seem to care. The governor sold out the state in the name of a few jobs.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,”agriculture ranks among the most hazardous industries.” As a result, employers prefer undocumented migratory workers (estimated at 53 – 90% of all farm workers) because if any die or become injured, their employers can quickly replace them. Many employers escape scrutiny of their labor policies and their legal consequences by ridding themselves of undocumented workers when it suits their interests. The workers are treated no better than the confined animals they are tending to.
Working conditions at CAFOs are unhealthy, dangerous and involve long hours. As many as 25% of all workers experience chronic bronchitis. Up to 70% will have acute bronchitis at some point during the year.
From 1992 to 1997, there were twelve documented cases of worker deaths in manure lagoons in the U.S. caused by breathing the accumulated manure gases or by falling into manure storage tanks. Yet, no one died on organic farms from manure.
In March 2006, a dairy farm employee and his 8-year-old son went out to feed the farm’s calves and tragically drowned in the farm’s manure pit. Three other dairy workers died in manure pits in California’s San Joaquin Valley in the last five years. Authorities theorized that the workers died because they were overcome with the fumes and particulates.
However, many farm workers in the U.S. are undocumented immigrants. Farmers are allowed to recruit workers from other countries to work on farms as laborers. The “temporary worker program” (the H-2A program) provides visas for up to 45,000 agricultural jobs a year.
You don’t have to believe us, you can read it for yourself on the following Internet sites:
CAFO crimes against nature by Steven Higgs: http://www.bloomingtonalternative.com/node/10453
Impacts of CAFOs on Rural Communities http://www.indianacafowatch.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=131&Itemid=47
Health Risks from Hog Confinements: http://www.iowasource.com/health/CAFO_airqu_0805.html
Sobering Statistics About Factory Farming – Why It’s Smart to Go Vegan by Ardeth Baxter http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/274046/sobering_statistics_about_factory_farming.html?cat=22
Factory Farmer Workers are paid by our taxes to come to this country – http://www.sustainabletable.org/issues/workers/
Agribusiness and the farmer – slave – http://www.sustainabletable.org/issues/agribusiness/
Animal Factories – Pollution and Health Threats to Rural Texas – http://www.consumersunion.org/other/animal/animal1.htm
Supermarkets in Britain to Remove Meat from Shelves if Animals Were Fed Genetically-Manipulated Food by Marie Woolf, SUNDAY INDEPENDENT (London) by Richard Wolfson, PhD - http://www.natural-law.ca/genetic/geindex.html
Huffman, R.L. and P.W. Westerman, “Estimated seepage losses from established swine waste lagoons in the lower coastal plain of North Carolina,” Transactions of the American Society of Agricultural Engineers, Vol. 38, No. 2 (1995), Plaintiff. 449-453
Kevin Stubbs “CAFOs Feed a Growing Problem – Concentrated animal feeding operations”. Endangered Species Bulletin. http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0ASV/is_1_24/ai_54466913/
Farm Safety Association. Manure Gas Dangers. Guelph, Ontario (Canada): Farm Safety Association, Inc., 2002: 1.
Kirkhorn, Stephen, and Mark B. Schenker. Human Health Effects of Agriculture: Physical Diseases and Illnesses 2001 (accessed 10 August 2006).
Barbassa, Julia, “Father and son die in manure pond at the dairy where they lived.” Associated Press, March 8, 2006.
US Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics. Meat Packing Plants Have the Highest Rate of Repeated-Trauma Disorders, August 1999 (accessed August 16, 2006)
Kendall M, Laura DeLind, et al., “Social Issues,” in: Understanding the Impacts of Large-Scale Swine Production: Proceedings from an Interdisciplinary Scientific Workshop (Des Moines, Iowa, June 29-30, 1995)
Eat Meat From Cloned Cattle by Amanda Pelliciari - http://www.disinfo.com/2010/08/eat-meat-from-cloned-cattle/
Michael Pollen Interview on Food, Inc. on Washington Insider. – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wXmF_erEv1o&NR=1&feature=fvwp
Herd Lameness and Laminitis - http://homepage.eircom.net/~progers/lamebov.htm
Cargill Beef E. coli O26 Outbreak and Recall – http://www.marlerclark.com/Cargill_Beef_E._coli_O26_Outbreak_and_Recall/
Filthy conditions found at egg producers – http://articles.latimes.com/2010/aug/31/business/la-fi-eggs-20100831
Multi-state outbreak of Salmonella tied to Taco Bell – http://www.marlerclark.com/Salmonella_Hartford_and_Baildon_Outbreaks_Taco_Bell/
There are many, many more studies and articles for those who are interested in reading the basis of our articles. We also provide more than 3,000 references in the Reference sections of our books that support our position on the dangers of factory farming to our environment and to our nation’s health. Don’t be fooled by the industry’s propaganda. Read it for yourself.