Beyond the Stink—Why aren’t we protected from Industrial Farming air emissions?

American Lung Association logo
In Wisconsin

March 26, 2013
The American Lung Association in Wisconsin has been contacted by a group of concerned citizens in Kewaunee County for assistance in an air quality issue that is of great concern to both the residents of those communities and to our organization. The issue is the proposed plan to spray liquid manure fertilizer. These residents are understandably upset at the prospect of being subjected to breathing liquid manure! I also have been informed that there have been several workgroup meetings to which residents of the communities affected were not invited to participate.
According to a report published by the National Association of Local Boards of Health animal manure contains 160 pathogens that are capable of causing disease or infection in animals or humans, affecting the respiratory and digestive systems, muscles and skin with chills and fever, itching and rashes, fatigue and weakness, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea and dehydration, headache, abdominal pain and cramping and other debilitating symptoms and illnesses. These pathogens can be transmitted through the air and/or water, potentially leading to widespread outbreaks. Manure lagoons also contain antibiotics, hormones, barn cleaners and municipal and industrial wastes, all of which are potentially transferred to humans and animals a great distance from the spraying area.
In Kewanee County alone, there are currently 16 Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), which are already spreading liquid manure directly to the land. To consider adding spraying of additional liquid manure increases the risk those residents already face.
The American Lung Association understands and respects the long tradition of agriculture and the important role it plays in our economy. Many of our own state authorities, however, have publicly recognized the potential negative health impacts of the center pivot sprinkler technology and have published recommendations to limit exposure. Whether these recommendations are adequate to protect these residents is still open for debate, especially in light of the very large potential applications being considered. Because of these facts, we are requesting that you reopen the work group with the inclusion of residents from the affected communities. We also respectfully request that you hold a public hearing in advance of issuing any permits, so that residents can be fully heard.
I know the residents are eager to work with state officials to find a solution that both helps our farms prosper while also protecting the people who live nearby. I hope to learn more about the permitting process and how we can assist you in finding a satisfactory resolution to this issue.
Dona Wininsky
Director of Public Policy and Communications, American Lung Association in Wisconsin
During the spreading seasons of both spring and fall, it is not unusual to hear neighbors discussing the stench that pervades the air, has ruined laundry on the clothesline, resulted in closing windows at various times of the day and night, and causes the inability to use the outdoors where you live. Often those inundated by odors given off by factory farm lagoons, farm digesters, & spreading fields– do not realize that beyond the “smell” lies a very real health threat. Toxic emissions known to harm human health include hydrogen sulfide, ammonia, methane, and dangerous Volatile Organic Compounds [VOC’s]. Harmful particulate matter that is emitted from AG operations and their fans, often mounted on buildings, should concern those who suffer from toxic emissions; they impact far more than merely an unpleasant overwhelming smell.

At Kewaunee CARES we have decided to put a more concentrated effort into addressing the air we share and promoting healthier air in our community. This will just be the first of several entries on how you can protect yourself.

Keep an odor log. This could be as simple as using the calendar you have in your home. Write down time, day, what the odor was and how it affected you/plans.

Invest in an indoor air purifier. These are not overly expensive and may help with air quality in your home. Often times
agricultural emissions are so high that they pervade the very interior of our homes.

Very little has been done to address the emissions from large industrial operations that pose serious threats to air quality where we live–by state and local health departments, DATCP, DNR, or the Environmental Protection Agency.
This will have to be another important issue tackled at the grassroots level. Please help us to Educate, Advocate, & Create Awareness…So we can all breathe easier. Thank you!

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