Friday, April 21, 2006

Those hog farms sure smell sweet

The federal government's Pork Board this month announced the results of a study of air quality in residences located near hog farms.

Like the Cattlemen's Beef Board, the Pork Board is funded by mandatory assessments or taxes on producers ($65 million per year) and jointly managed by pork producers and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

For the air quality study, the Pork Board's headline read:
Checkoff-funded study finds hog farms not a factor
to nearby residences’ air quality
The pork industry officials just gushed about the results:
“This is great news for us as pork producers and for our neighbors,” said Craig Christensen, a pork producer from Ogden, Iowa and member of the National Pork Board.
But here are more of the details:
The study shows that an increase in the concentration of hydrogen sulfide measured on the farm does not show a similar increase in concentration inside nearby residences unless residences are located less than .4 mile (2,149 feet) from the farm and climate conditions are such that low wind speed and little solar radiation are present. Even under these conditions, hydrogen sulfide concentrations inside a residence located less than 300 feet from the largest operation in the study were recorded at levels more than 50 percent lower than the level currently set by the state of Iowa as one with potential health effects.

The study revealed that ammonia concentrations inside residences tend to be more concentrated than ammonia levels in the air outside the residence or at hog farm’s property line. The study’s authors said evidence suggests that ammonia levels may be related more to inhabitants’ lifestyles, including smoking cigarettes and having indoor pets, than to the residence’s proximity to a hog farm.
To summarize, here is a truer revision of the headline:
In the interior of homes that are sufficiently far from a hog farm, with the windows shut, and other conditions favorable, the smell of the ammonia from the hog farm is no worse than that from the interior cigarette smoke or pet urine.
And to think, those silly neighbors sometimes complain.