Intensive livestock operations, health, and quality of life among eastern North Carolina residents

Environ Health Perspect. 2000 Mar;108(3):233-8. doi: 10.1289/ehp.00108233.


People who live near industrial swine operations have reported decreased health and quality of life. To investigate these issues, we surveyed residents of three rural communities, one in the vicinity of an approximately 6,000-head hog operation, one in the vicinity of two intensive cattle operations, and a third rural agricultural area without livestock operations that use liquid waste management systems. Trained interviewers obtained information about health symptoms and reduced quality of life during the previous 6 months. We completed 155 interviews, with a refusal rate of 14%. Community differences in the mean number of episodes were compared with adjustment for age, sex, smoking, and employment status. The average number of episodes of many symptoms was similar in the three communities; however, certain respiratory and gastrointestinal problems and mucous membrane irritation were elevated among residents in the vicinity of the hog operation. Residents in the vicinity of the hog operation reported increased occurrences of headaches, runny nose, sore throat, excessive coughing, diarrhea, and burning eyes as compared to residents of the community with no intensive livestock operations. Quality of life, as indicated by the number of times residents could not open their windows or go outside even in nice weather, was similar in the control and the community in the vicinity of the cattle operation but greatly reduced among residents near the hog operation. Respiratory and mucous membrane effects were consistent with the results of studies of occupational exposures among swine confinement-house workers and previous findings for neighbors of intensive swine operations. Long-term physical and mental health impacts could not be investigated in this study.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • African Americans / psychology*
  • African Americans / statistics & numerical data*
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Air Pollution / adverse effects*
  • Animal Husbandry / statistics & numerical data*
  • Animals
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cattle
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Environmental Health / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Health Status*
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • North Carolina
  • Poverty / psychology
  • Poverty / statistics & numerical data
  • Quality of Life*
  • Residence Characteristics / statistics & numerical data*
  • Rural Health / statistics & numerical data*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Swine*