Mortality and Health Outcomes in North Carolina Communities Located in Close Proximity to Hog Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations

N C Med J. 2018 Sep-Oct;79(5):278-288. doi: 10.18043/ncm.79.5.278.


BACKGROUND Life expectancy in southeastern North Carolina communities located in an area with multiple concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) after adjusting for socioeconomic factors remains low. We hypothesized that poor health outcomes in this region may be due to converging demographic, socioeconomic, behavioral, and access-to-care factors and are influenced by the presence of hog CAFOs.METHODS We studied mortality, hospital admissions, and emergency department (ED) usage for health conditions potentially associated with hog CAFOs-anemia, kidney disease, infectious diseases, and low birth weight (LBW)-in North Carolina communities located in zip codes with hog CAFOs (Study group 1), in zip codes with > 215hogs/km2 (Study group 2), and without hog CAFOs (Control group). We compared cause-specific age-adjusted rates, the odds ratios (ORs) of events in multivariable analyses (adjusted for 6 co-factors), and the changes of ORs relative to the distance to hog CAFOs.RESULTS Residents from Study groups 1 and 2 had higher rates of all-cause mortality, infant mortality, mortality of patients with multimorbidity, mortality from anemia, kidney disease, tuberculosis, and septicemia, and higher rates of ED visits and hospital admissions for LBW infants than the residents in the Control group. In zip codes with > 215hogs/km2, mortality ORs were 1.50 for anemia (P < 0.0001), 1.31 for kidney disease (P < 0.0001), 2.30 for septicemia (P < 0.0001), and 2.22 for tuberculosis (P = 0.0061).LIMITATIONS This study included a lack of individual measurements on environmental contaminants, biomarkers of exposures and co-factors, and differences in residential and occupational locations.CONCLUSION North Carolina communities located near hog CAFOs had higher all-cause and infant mortality, mortality due to anemia, kidney disease, tuberculosis, septicemia, and higher hospital admissions/ED visits of LBW infants. Although not establishing causality with exposures from hog CAFOs, our findings support the need for future studies to determine factors that influence these outcomes, as well as the need to improve screening and diagnostic strategies for these diseases in North Carolina communities adjacent to hog CAFOs.

MeSH terms

  • Animal Feed*
  • Animals
  • Environmental Pollution*
  • Food Industry*
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Mortality*
  • North Carolina
  • Swine*