Health effects of airborne exposures from concentrated animal feeding operations

Dick Heederik, Torben Sigsgaard, Peter S. Thorne, Joel N. Kline, Rachel Avery, Jakob H. Bønløkke, Elizabeth A. Chrischilles, James A. Dosman, Caroline Duchaine, Steven R. Kirkhorn, Katarina Kulhankova, James A. Merchant

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125 Scopus citations


Toxic gases, vapors, and particles are emitted from concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) into the general environment. These include ammonia, hydrogen sulfide, carbon dioxide, malodorous vapors, and particles contaminated with a wide range of microorganisms. Little is known about the health risks of exposure to these agents for people living in the surrounding areas. Malodor is one of the predominant concerns, and there is evidence that psychophysiologic changes may occur as a result of exposure to malodorous compounds. There is a paucity of data regarding community adverse health effects related to low-level gas and particulate emissions. Most information comes from studies among workers in CAFO installations. Research over the last decades has shown that microbial exposures, especially endotoxin exposure, are related to deleterious respiratory health effects, of which cross-shift lung function decline and accelerated decline over time are the most pronounced effects. Studies in naïve subjects and workers have shown respiratory inflammatory responses related to the microbial load. This working group, which was part of the Conference on Environmental Health Impacts of Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations: Anticipating Hazards-Searching for Solutions, concluded that there is a great need to evaluate health effects from exposures to the toxic gases, vapors, and particles emitted into the general environment by CAFOs. Research should focus not only on nuisance and odors but also on potential health effects from microbial exposures, concentrating on susceptible subgroups, especially asthmatic children and the elderly, since these exposures have been shown to be related to respiratory health effects among workers in CAFOs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)298-302
Number of pages5
JournalEnvironmental health perspectives
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2007


  • Air quality
  • Asthma
  • Biological agents
  • Endotoxin
  • Inflammation
  • Odor
  • Poultry
  • Swine

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