Air pollution, lung function, and physical symptoms in communities near concentrated Swine feeding operations

Epidemiology. 2011 Mar;22(2):208-15. doi: 10.1097/EDE.0b013e3182093c8b.


Background: Concentrated animal feeding operations emit air pollutants that may affect health. We examined associations of reported hog odor and of monitored air pollutants with physical symptoms and lung function in people living within 1.5 miles of hog operations.

Methods: Between September 2003 and September 2005, we measured hydrogen sulfide (H2S), endotoxin, and particulate matter (PM10, PM2.5, and PM2.5-10) for approximately 2-week periods in each of 16 eastern North Carolina communities. During the same time periods, 101 adults sat outside their homes twice a day for 10 minutes, reported hog odor and physical symptoms, and measured their lung function. Conditional fixed-effects logistic and linear regression models were used to derive estimates of associations.

Results: The log odds (±1 standard error) of acute eye irritation following 10 minutes outdoors increased by 0.53 (±0.06) for every unit increase in odor, by 0.15 (±0.06) per 1 ppb of H2S, and by 0.36 (±0.11) per 10 μg/m of PM10. Odor and H2S were also associated with irritation and respiratory symptoms in the previous 12 hours. The log odds of difficulty breathing increased by 0.50 (±0.15) per unit of odor. A 10 μg/m increase in mean 12-hour PM2.5 was associated with increased log odds of wheezing (0.84 ± 0.29) and declines in forced expiratory volume in 1 second (-0.04 ± 0.02 L). A 10 EU/mg increase in endotoxin was associated with increased log odds of sore throat (0.10 ± 0.05), chest tightness (0.09 ± 0.04), and nausea (0.10 ± 0.05).

Conclusions: Pollutants measured near hog operations are related to acute physical symptoms in a longitudinal study using analyses that preclude confounding by time-invariant characteristics of individuals.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Air Pollution / adverse effects*
  • Animal Feed / adverse effects*
  • Animals
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen Sulfide / isolation & purification
  • Linear Models
  • Logistic Models
  • Lung / physiopathology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • North Carolina
  • Odorants / analysis
  • Respiratory Function Tests*
  • Serotyping*
  • Swine*
  • Young Adult


  • Hydrogen Sulfide