Air pollution and odor in communities near industrial swine operations

Environ Health Perspect. 2008 Oct;116(10):1362-8. doi: 10.1289/ehp.11250. Epub 2008 Jun 5.


Background: Odors can affect health and quality of life. Industrialized animal agriculture creates odorant compounds that are components of a mixture of agents that could trigger symptoms reported by neighbors of livestock operations.

Objective: We quantified swine odor episodes reported by neighbors and the relationships of these episodes with environmental measurements.

Methods: Between September 2003 and September 2005, 101 nonsmoking volunteers living within 1.5 mi of industrial swine operations in 16 neighborhoods in eastern North Carolina completed twice-daily odor diaries for approximately 2 weeks. Meteorological conditions, hydrogen sulfide, and particulate matter <or= 10 microm in aerodynamic diameter (PM10) were monitored in each neighborhood. We used mixed models to partition odor variance within and between people and between neighborhoods, and to quantify relationships between environmental factors and odor.

Results: Participants reported 1,655 episodes of swine odor. In nine neighborhoods, odor was reported on more than half of study-days. Odor ratings were related to temperature, PM10, and semivolatile PM10 in standard but not mixed models. In mixed models, odor increased 0.15 +/- 0.05 units (mean +/- SE) for a 1-ppb increase in H2S, and 0.45 +/- 0.14 units for a 10-microg/m3 increase in PM10 at wind speeds > 6.75 miles per hour. The odds of reporting a change in daily activities due to odor increased 62% for each unit increase in average odor during the prior 12 hr (t-value = 7.17).

Conclusions: This study indicates that malodor from swine operations is commonly present in these communities and that the odors reported by neighbors are related to objective environmental measurements and interruption of activities of daily life.

Keywords: agriculture; air pollution; community-based participatory research; environmental justice; epidemiology; quality of life; rural health.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Air Pollution*
  • Animal Husbandry*
  • Animals
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Odorants*
  • Particle Size
  • Swine