Public Lab Research note

How CAFOS (Factory Farms) Are Plaguing North Carolina Communities of Color

by zengirl2 | August 01, 2017 19:58 01 Aug 19:58 | #14704 | #14704

At the recent Appalachia Barnraising I connected with someone from the Tennessee Clean Water Network that knew someone researching the effects of factory farms. The work is by Christine Ball-Blakely and focuses on North Carolina, but many of the issues are pertinent if you are concerned about CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations). I've summarized the main points from one of her recent talks on the critical health effects.

Well Water Pollution

  • Nitrates
  • North Carolina wells near CAFOs have elevated nitrates
  • "Blue Baby Syndrome"
  • Nitrates oxidize iron in hemoglobin in red blood cells to methemoglobin
  • Babies cannot convert methemoglobin back to hemoglobin quickly enough, which hinders ability of blood to carry oxygen

Water Pollution

  • Pathogens
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fever
  • Diarrhea
  • Muscle pain
  • Kidney failure
  • Death
  • Increased risk for those with compromised immune systems
  • Children, pregnant women, the elderly
  • Those who are immunosuppressed, HIV positive, or are undergoing chemotherapy
  • Viruses (Can produce novel, exciting viruses!)
  • H1N1 suspected to have spawned at pig CAFO in Mexico
  • CAFOs not required to test for new viruses
  • Antibiotics
  • 70% of all administration in to animals
  • Additives in feed
  • Not fully metabolized so -> manure
  • Causes antibiotics to be less effective for humans
  • Leads to development of antibiotic-resistant microbes
  • Risk to humans compounded by eating meat

Air Pollution

  • Disproportionate levels of:
  • Upper respiratory ailments
  • Gastrointestinal ailments
  • Tension
  • Anger
  • Confusion
  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Methane
  • Respiratory irritant
  • Chemical burns to the respiratory tract, skin, and eyes
  • Severe cough
  • Chronic lung disease
  • Hydrogen Sulfide (H2S)
  • Inflammation of moist membranes of eyes and respiratory tract
  • Olfactory neuron loss
  • Death
  • Particulate Matter (PM)
  • Chronic bronchitis
  • Chronic respiratory symptoms
  • Decline in lung function
  • Organic dust toxic syndrome
  • Children are especially vulnerable
  • Take in 20-50% more air than adults
  • More susceptible to lung disease and health effects
  • 26% of schools surveyed in North Carolina report that CAFO odors are noticeable outside school building -- 8% report noticeable odors inside
  • Economically disadvantaged children even worse off
  • More likely to live near CAFO
  • More likely to attend school near CAFO

Christine's full report is attached __ Christine_Ball-Blakely.pdf

This is an important topic that will continue to play a role in air, water and soil quality issues.


Wow, thank you for this information @Zengirl2! Could you provide the paper citation here so we can look it up (since it didn't attach, and I honestly have no idea how to do attachments)?

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@gretchengehrke weirdly if I'm in edit it shows as an attachment. However, the code is saying it puts it in Public Lab's photos. So weird. Will post this as an issue. The report is a draft and has no link. It was sent to me as an attachment.

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@gretchengehrke Okay, fixed it! Legacy editor correctly adds an attachment, but not the newer Rich editor. Will make a note on my bug report now!

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Awesome, @Zengirl2. Thanks!

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