Symptomatic effects of exposure to diluted air sampled from a swine confinement atmosphere on healthy human subjects

Environ Health Perspect. 2005 May;113(5):567-76. doi: 10.1289/ehp.6814.


Aerial emissions from a swine house at North Carolina State University's field laboratory were diluted to a level that could occur at varying distances downwind from a confined animal feeding operation (CAFO) both within and beyond the property line, and these emissions were delivered to an environmental exposure chamber. The study design consisted of two 1-hr sessions, one in which 48 healthy human adult volunteers were exposed to diluted swine air and another in which they were exposed to clean air (control). Objective measures of blood pressure, temperature, heart rate, respiratory rate, lung function, nasal inflammation, secretory immunity, mood, attention, and memory were correlated with objective measures of air quality. Ratings of perceived (self-reported) health symptoms were also obtained. The mean levels of airborne constituents in the swine air condition were hydrogen sulfide (24 ppb), ammonia (817 ppb), total suspended particulates (0.0241 mg/m3), endotoxin (7.40 endotoxin units/m3), and odor (57 times above odor threshold). No statistical differences on objective measures of physical symptoms, mood, or attention resulted from the 1-hr exposure to swine emissions in the environmental chamber when compared with clean air for healthy human volunteers. However, subjects were 4.1 (p = 0.001) times more likely to report headaches, 6.1 (p = 0.004) times more likely to report eye irritation, and 7.8 (p = 0.014) times more likely to report nausea in the swine air (experimental) condition than in the control condition. These results indicate that short-term exposure in an environmental chamber to malodorous emissions from a swine house at levels expected downwind can induce clinically important symptoms in healthy human volunteers.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Air Movements
  • Air Pollution, Indoor / adverse effects*
  • Animal Feed
  • Animals
  • Environmental Exposure*
  • Female
  • Headache / etiology
  • Housing, Animal
  • Humans
  • Irritants
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nausea / etiology
  • Odorants*
  • Swine*


  • Irritants