Air Pollution from Livestock Farms Is Associated with Airway Obstruction in Neighboring Residents

Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2017 Nov 1;196(9):1152-1161. doi: 10.1164/rccm.201701-0021OC.


Rationale: Livestock farm emissions may not only affect respiratory health of farmers but also of neighboring residents.

Objectives: To explore associations between spatial and temporal variation in pollutant emissions from livestock farms and lung function in a general, nonfarming, rural population in the Netherlands.

Methods: We conducted a cross-sectional study in 2,308 adults (age, 20-72 yr). A pulmonary function test was performed measuring prebronchodilator and post-bronchodilator FEV1, FVC, FEV1/FVC, and maximum mid-expiratory flow (MMEF). Spatial exposure was assessed as (1) number of farms within 500 m and 1,000 m of the home, (2) distance to the nearest farm, and (3) modeled annual average fine dust emissions from farms within 500 m and 1,000 m of the home address. Temporal exposure was assessed as week-average ambient particulate matter <10 μm in diameter and ammonia (NH3) concentrations before lung function measurements. Data were analyzed with generalized additive models (smoothing).

Measurements and main results: A negative association was found between the number of livestock farms within a 1,000-m buffer from the home address and MMEF, which was more pronounced in participants without atopy. No associations were found with other spatial exposure variables. Week-average particulate matter <10 μm in diameter and NH3 levels were negatively associated with FEV1, FEV1/FVC, and MMEF. In a two-pollutant model, only NH3 remained associated. A 25-μg/m3 increase in NH3 was associated with a 2.22% lower FEV1 (95% confidence interval, -3.69 to -0.74), FEV1/FVC of -1.12% (-1.96 to -0.28), and MMEF of -5.67% (-8.80 to -2.55).

Conclusions: Spatial and temporal variation in livestock air pollution emissions are associated with lung function deficits in nonfarming residents.

Keywords: air pollution; livestock farm; lung function; residents; respiratory health.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Air Pollution / adverse effects*
  • Air Pollution / statistics & numerical data
  • Airway Obstruction / etiology*
  • Animals
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Farms / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Livestock*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Netherlands
  • Residence Characteristics*
  • Respiratory Function Tests / statistics & numerical data
  • Risk Factors
  • Rural Health / statistics & numerical data
  • Rural Population / statistics & numerical data
  • Young Adult