Health impacts of living near livestock production facilities explored at MSU Extension conference

The April 23, 2013 Communities and Livestock conference sponsored by Michigan State University Extension, will include two presentations on the health outcomes of residents living near large livestock facilities.

Livestock farm workers are regularly exposed to air emissions including dust, ammonia, hydrogen sulfide and endotoxins, which may lead to negative health outcomes. In the 1980s and 1990s, as animal production became more intensified, studies documented the health and respiratory impacts on farm owners and employees. These health risks have been documented and commodity groups have taken steps to address farm worker safety, such as the National Pork Board’s The Pork Industry’s Health and Safety Training Program. The health implications for those living near livestock farms who are neither farm employees nor family workers, has not been clearly defined. In an effort to explore the most current science on the health concerns of residing in the vicinity of a large animal feeding operation, the Michigan State University Extension Communities and Livestock conference on April 23, 2013 will include two discussions on the topic.

Dr. Brent Auvermann is a professor of agriculture engineering with the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service specializing in livestock air quality and manure management. Auvermann, along with a national team of animal and human health specialists, recently conducted a review of studies reporting respiratory, gastrointestinal and mental health outcomes in individuals living near animal feeding operations (AFOs). The team used electronic search engines (PUBMED, CAB, Web of Science and Agricola), hand searching and personal contacts to discover relevant articles. At the conclusion of the search almost 5,000 articles were identified. All identified manuscripts were then subjected to a screening process performed by the team members to assure the manuscripts included in the final review were based on unbiased principles and employed sound scientific methods. During the  Communities and Livestock conference, Auvermann will review and discuss the team’s findings.

Stacy Sneeringer’s “Does Animal Feeding Operation Pollution Hurt Public Health?” reported in 2009 that within the United States there is a 2.3 percent higher incidence in infant mortality in counties with livestock production and that a doubling of livestock numbers leads to 7.4 percent increase in infant mortality. A team of Michigan State University researchers are using medical records from the Michigan Department of Community Health to see if they can determine if there are similar health concerns in Michigan. Karen Chou, Melissa Millerick-May and Roy Black will share preliminary results of their research findings during the April 23 conference.

Communities and Livestock will be held at the MSU Diagnostic Center for Population and Animal Health, 4125 Beaumont Road, East Lansing, MI 48910. Registration opens at 8:30 a.m. and the conference convenes at 9 a.m. Preregistration is required. Online registration is available or a mail-in registration form can be found at the same site. Registration fee is $85.00 per person and will include all conference materials and parking. Refreshments and lunch will also be provided.

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