Study shows industrial hog operations appear to impair health, life quality among neighbors

CHAPEL HILL -- Detailed surveys of people living in three rural North Carolina communities suggest industrial hog farms both reduce the quality of life for people living near them and adversely affect their health, a University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill study concludes.

Funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences' Environmental Justice program, researchers completed 155 interviews with people living near a 6,000-head hog operation, two adjacent cattle farms and, as a control, a farm area without large livestock operations.

"In particular, headache, runny nose, sore throat, excessive coughing, diarrhea and burning eyes were reported more frequently in the hog community," said Dr. Steven Wing, associate professor of epidemiology at the UNC-CH School of Public Health. "Quality of life, as indicated by the number of times residents could not open their windows or go outside even in nice weather, was similar in the control and the community in the vicinity of the cattle operation but greatly reduced among residents near the hog operation."

Two papers Wing and colleagues wrote on their research appear in the March issue of Environmental Health Perspectives, a scientific journal. The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, which also supported the studies, released preliminary findings last year, but researchers have added further analyses. Others involved include research associate Susanne Wolf and graduate research assistant Dana Cole, both at UNC-CH, and Gary Grant, director of Concerned Citizens of Tillery, a community group.

The researchers' goal was to choose three eastern N.C. areas with similar economic and social characteristics where local residents and groups would cooperate in the study. They chose sites with 80 to 100 households within a two-mile radius of livestock operations so they could interview people in about 50 households in each community.

Residents of the hog community could

Contact: David Williamson
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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