Animals in food production sites are literally living in a pigsty with no one to clean the mess up. According to a study conducted by the Hopkins Center for a Liveable Future at the Bloomberg School of Public Health, state and local health departments have not truly addressed the public concerns associated with food animal production sites.
Before the study, it was assumed that the local health departments actively monitor and attend to issues raised from large animal production sites. To the contrary, however, animal production concerns were not rightly addressed or linked to health matters. The study delved into the role of state and local health departments in acknowledging public health concerns related to food production sites. Thirteen county and eight state health departments as well as community leaders were interviewed. The study chose specific participants in order to get the most effective results.
“We analyzed health department data and determined which countries had the largest hog concentration. We chose hogs because their waste is considered to have the strongest odor. We also factored in human density population. We needed to study human population in counties that would be affected,” Jillian Fry, lead author of the study at the Bloomberg School of Public Health, said.
In previous studies it was discovered that areas surrounding food animal production sites had an increase in hydrogen sulfide, particulate matter, and allergens. This increased contamination can directly cause health problems, including multiple respiratory, cardiovascular and neurological health problems. While these health issues and public complaints were presented, state and local health departments did not take action. The lack of follow-up to community members’ complaints was apparent. Fry suggested that this limited reaction is largely due to the lack of legal regulations that give health department incentives to employ proper enforcement. No such incentives exist because there is no funding and no experts to properly investigate the issues.
If both the state and the local health departments were involved, it may help protect the health of the community population.
“Together, they could bring in human health regulations,” Fry said. She believes that through collaboration, they could systematically determine what constitutes a violation. The biggest issue here is that as of now, there is nothing to enforce production regulations, which is something that must be rectified.
Furthermore, it is thought that in the future, health departments with animal production sites should begin to provide training, educational materials, and more funding. Fry suggested a centralized network.
“We can use agricultural data to know what people deal with. This network would have sources of information from all relevant environmental heads. The most updated research would be available. Right now, people don’t even know that the health issues are. They don’t know there is literature out there. This network would be helpful. It’s very important,” Fry said.