CONTACT: DAVE PEDERSEN
283 Medical Laboratories
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 335-8032; fax (319) 335-8034
UI researchers to study issues related to pork production
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Agricultural health and safety researchers at the
University of Iowa College of Medicine are undertaking a project that will
address rural environmental and quality of life issues related to pork
production in Iowa.
Researchers at the UI's Institute for Rural and Environmental Health
will collaborate with colleagues from the University of Northern Iowa and
Iowa State University on "A Model Research and Educational Project
to Understand and Promote Community-Accepted Pork Production." The
researchers recently received a three-year, $240,000 grant through the
U.S. Department of Agriculture's Fund for Rural America grant program to
pursue the project.
"This effort has garnered broad-based support and input from the
Iowa Department of Public Health, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and
Land Stewardship, the North Central Regional Center for Rural Development
and the Iowa Environmental Council, as well as a number of farmers, rural
residents, farm groups and policy makers," says Kendall Thu, associate
director of Iowa's Center for Agricultural Safety and Health (I-CASH) based
at the UI. "Assessing and addressing rural issues in a way that promotes
Iowa's economically vital swine sector is responsive to a documented need."
The project has two primary goals. The first is to scientifically assess
the air quality, water quality, human health and rural socioeconomic health
of rural residents and communities associated with contrasting forms of
swine production. The second goal is to develop an educational program
that promotes community-acceptable pork production, based on a combination
of scientific assessments and community input.
Since the mid-1970s considerable research has been devoted to the health
of workers inside swine facilities. Results indicate that a high percentage
of these workers experience health problems, especially respiratory diseases,
primarily as a result of hazardous air quality inside hog confinement buildings.
Research on the outdoor air quality of swine facilities has focused mainly
on odor emissions. Although researchers have received numerous complaints
associated with swine facilities, few studies have actually been conducted
in this area.
Project researchers plan to assess ammonia, hydrogen sulfide and dust
concentrations, as well as the physical and psychological health of neighbors
living near contrasting forms of swine operations. They will also identify
any differences in the types or frequency of air contamination or health
problems at these facilities compared to a control site.
In terms of water quality, farm families and other rural residents
often raise concerns over the danger to water resources from the large
concentrations of hog manure that swine operations
produce. These concerns include runoff, routine handling and land application,
possible leakage to groundwater, and accidents and spills. Thu notes, however,
that there is little scientific evidence to determine which swine facilities,
if any, can cause problems.
The water quality component of the project will involve water sampling
to characterize the condition of surface water, ground water/drinking water
and precipitation at or near these facilities. Researchers will also provide
actual water quality data and assessments to rural communities so they
have a factual understanding of water quality conditions, and assist hog
producers and rural residents in ways to improve and protect their water
The researchers also plan to examine the relative social and economic
benefits of various forms of swine operations. They will assess the benefits
and costs of contrasting forms of pork production on community institutions
such as schools, health care and social services. Researchers also will
consider the quality of social relations among neighbors living near different
types of swine operations and evaluate how these relationships may have
changed over time.
Results from all of the scientific assessments will be provided to pork
producers, rural residents and community leaders. Combined with their input,
the findings will be translated into an educational program that identifies
key issues related to promoting community-acceptable forms of pork production.