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Hog CAFOs Spill Poop, Correlate with Poor Health

At least 30 North Carolina hog CAFOs have discharged manure following the recent torrential rains from Hurricane Florence. 40 more hog CAFO lagoons are topped off and likely to spill. That CAFO spillage puts North Carolinians at risk of salmonella, giardia, and E-coli infection.

But even when it’s not hurricaning, there appears to be a correlation between living close to hog CAFOs and getting sick:

Residents of communities near industrial-scale hog farms in North Carolina face an increased risk of potentially deadly diseases, Duke University scientists reported in a study released this week.

Researchers found that compared to communities without big hog farms, in the communities with the highest hog farm density, there were 30 percent more deaths among patients with kidney disease, 50 percent more deaths among patients with anemia, and 130 percent more deaths among patients with a blood bacterial infection, called sepsis. The communities near the heaviest concentration of large hog farms also had a greater risk of infant mortality and lower birth weight [Dr. Olga Naldenko, “Duke University Study: N.C. Residents Living Near Large Hog Farms Have Elevated Disease, Death Risks,” Environmental Working Group, 2018.09.19].

*Elevated risk of deaths, hospital admissions and emergency room visits from health problems such as anemia, kidney disease, and sepsis, increase for residents living at approximately 1, 3, and 6-mile distances from a hog farm.  Source: EWG, from ‘Mortality and Health Outcomes in North Carolina Communities Located in Close Proximity to Hog Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations,’, September 2018.
*Elevated risk of deaths, hospital admissions and emergency room visits from health problems such as anemia, kidney disease, and sepsis, increase for residents living at approximately 1, 3, and 6-mile distances from a hog farm.
Source: EWG, from ‘Mortality and Health Outcomes in North Carolina Communities Located in Close Proximity to Hog Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations,’, September 2018.

Meanwhile, here in South Dakota, the Davison County Commission has approved two more Pipestone Systems hog CAFOs, each to hold 2,400 head. But don’t worry: it probably won’t rain that much around Mitchell, and correlation is not causation. Pass the bacon.


  1. LA 2018-09-20 16:05

    I wonder how many municipal sewage lagoons spilled sewage during the storm.

  2. mike from iowa 2018-09-20 16:13

    Don’t forget all the ponds with watered down coal ash along with all the human and hog waste ending up in rivers and streams and probably lakes and municipal water systems.

  3. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-09-20 19:07

    Interesting question, LA. In 2016, Hurricane Matthew caused the following damage:

    • 1 partial lagoon breach on an inactive hog farm
    • 14 lagoons inundated by floodwaters
    • No lagoons overtopped
    • No impact to more than 99.5% of active lagoons in North Carolina
    • Municipal wastewater treatment plants spilled more than 154 million gallons of raw, untreated human waste into the state’s waterways.

    At least that’s what the North Carolina Pork Council says.

  4. Anne Beal 2018-09-21 00:28

    I will give up bacon when you pry it out of my cold dead hands.

    We would all live longer if we gave up bacon. We just don’t want to.

  5. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-09-21 06:50

    Fewer people would get sick and die prematurely if they didn’t have to live next to corporate pork factories. We just don’t want to get in the way of corporate meat profits to promote public health.

  6. mike from iowa 2018-09-21 08:26

    JasontheTroll just jumped Megalodon.

  7. Wayne 2018-09-21 08:32

    Looking at Jason’s link:

    An estimated 650,000 North Carolinians live within three miles of a large hog farm, according to an EWG geospatial analysis of state data, which was not part of the Duke study.

    Gosh, that’s almost as many folks as there are South Dakotans.

    Hold the phone, Cory! I think you’ve just stumbled onto something.

    It seems to me, from a logical framework, that it would be wiser to transplant all those hog operations away from populated North Carolina, which is subject to massive flooding, and place them in the Dakotas where you can safely have massive CAFOs 12 miles away from any town.

    We should request North Carolina send South Dakota some of their Medicaid dollars, too, since we’re saving them healthcare costs.

    …. OOOOOR…

    You could actually read the study and discover that the EWG is being pretty darn liberal with the findings of the study.

    For starters, the study compares populations within zip codes and prevalence & size of hog CAFOs within those zip codes. The study doesn’t track individuals (that would be an expensive undertaking). And it doesn’t actually geo-locate hog operations.

    There’s no chart like the one EWG provides within the study; EWG made that themselves by (I’m speculating) dividing the number of hog operations within a zip code by the area of the zip code.

    From the study:

    In this study we do not establish causality between exposures from hog CAFOs and higher risk of mortality, hospital admissions, or ED visits for studied diseases in communities adjacent to CAFOs. One interpretation of our findings could be that people who reside in such communities may simultaneously be affected by multiple risk factors including low income and education, higher smoking prevalence, and lower access to medical care. Nonetheless, after adjusting for such co-factors or comparing zip codes with similar co-factors, persistently poorer health outcomes were observed in the communities located in zip codes with hog CAFOs. Furthermore, the DiSC analysis demonstrated a higher risk of poorer health outcomes in closer proximity to the CAFO. Our sensitivity analysis showed that patterns of use of medical care among the residents of these North Carolina communities may also contribute to the differences in health outcomes.

    Here, the authors try to assert that the incidence is worse than expected, but acknowledge their sensitivity analysis also reveals behavioral use of health care was important. It could be that the real problem isn’t the CAFOs, but that the people who work in the area aren’t compensated enough to get sufficient healthcare. I don’t know how important because the graphic is behind a paywall.

    The limitations of this study include: i) a lack of individual measurements of exposure, co-factors, and potential biomarkers of exposure; ii) potential misclassification of exposure from spray fields, accounting for weather, season and wind direction, exposure to poultry facilities, and coal power plants; iii) limited list of population characteristics in currently available dataset to match the compared population groups; and iv) potentially different residential and occupational locations for the same person. Further studies must address these limitations. The problems of identifying potential causative agents and evaluation of dose-response relationships in hog CAFOs studies are discussed in the literature; it is difficult to account for all required factors in occupational health studies, but the detection of specific exposures and diseases in residential communities is even more challenging due to additional complexities caused by dispersion of environmental agents, different exposure pathways, and variability of individual susceptibility to contaminants [6].

    So… big grains of salt.

  8. mike from iowa 2018-09-21 09:16

    You deniers are gonna get better living and environmentl conditions whether you want them or not. Just as soon as we get wingnuts out of the EPA and government again.

  9. jerry 2018-09-21 09:18

    Wayne, you forgot Being Black Citizens. For now, lets call it BBC. That is where these cesspools are being built in North Carolina. They build them in impoverished areas where the BBC’s live. No white man would ever live or have one built so close.

  10. jerry 2018-09-21 09:20

    mfi, certainly looks like a lot of resources for Wayne and the paytroll to check out. Great work!

  11. David Newquist 2018-09-21 12:43

    A group of pork farmers gathered at the Holiday Inn by the airport in Moline to discuss the problems facing pork producers. They became known as the Moline 90. (I was farm editor of the Moline Dispatch and covered the meeting.) Pork prices were unstable and weak, and the farmers were looking for ways to stay in business. That meeting led to the start of organizations that lobbied for pork producers and promoted their product (the other white meat). That was a time when most of the farms were actually family farms and had not been integrated into the corporate food production industry, as is the case today.

    The problems they faced were the same problems addressed in this discussion thread. CAFOs were being constructed and the environmental issues they created were a new factor in farm management. They had mixed successes. Many farmers who tried hog CAFOs (a cousin of mine included) were put out of business when uncontrollable diseases swept through their confined herds, and animals died or had to be exterminated. The epidemics raised the concerns of food and health advocates as well as animal welfare and environmental groups. Feed companies incorporated antibiotics into feed supplements and the farmers were suddenly confronted with the fact that their preventive disease measures were spurring the evolution of super bacteria which had no known antidotes. Some farmers returned to open air methods of pork production while others tried to manage their CAFOs, which had required massive capital outlays to build.

    One young innovator was successful in controlling disease and animal behavior problems when the site on which he built his operation became an issue. His CAFO was at the end of a valley in which a number of pioneering farms were established. The odor from his CAFO drifted up the valley and created a constant malodorous presence on the farms in the valley. One fourth-generation family on one of farms found that their children were being taunted at school because their clothes were saturated with the smell of pig excrement. The family moved into town while the farmer appealed to government zoning agencies and began a law suit. Ultimately, nature settled the issue the the CAFO was closed by a disease epidemic and was destroyed to control the epidemic. The CAFO owner rebuilt in a different place with a different system for managing hog manure.

    The problems with CAFOs have intensified as many farmers have plowed up pasture to plant corn and beans and have stopped raising small herds of livestock, channeling meat production to CAFOs, next to which no one wants to live.

    We are intensifying the building of CAFOS at a time when government agencies and college of agriculture extension services that tried to solve the health and environmental problems are being reduced or dismantled. The problems are the same ones that faced the Moline 90 but the conflicts have been intensified by the integration of farms into the corporate system and the agencies which mediated the conflicts are being eliminated.

    As a retired extension agent wrote, those kitchens which once were devoted to the canning of fruits and vegetables are now simmering batches of meth. It has become a rural way of life.

  12. Porter Lansing 2018-09-21 12:50

    Excellent, Professor Newquist.

  13. Jeff Barth 2018-09-22 14:35

    Duke University was endowed by the tobacco industry and NC is number one in tobacco production. Did they take that into account on this health study? Numbers can be made to give you the answer you want.
    Remember the average American has less than one testicle.

  14. Debbo 2018-09-22 21:32

    “Remember the average American has less than one testicle.”
    Us female types have zero.

  15. Debbo 2018-09-22 21:34

    Maybe they’ll start building those multi-level CAFO buildings like they do in China. Imagine. A million hogs on 40 acres.

    Oh. My. Gawd.

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