Pollution from livestock farming affects infant health

October 08, 2008

Wellesley, MA - October 8, 2008 - A new study in the American Journal of Agricultural Economics explores the effects of pollution from livestock facilities on infant health and finds that production is associated with an increase in infant mortality.

Stacy Sneeringer of Wellesley College utilized data on spatial variation in livestock operations from the past two decades to identify the relationship between industry location and infant health. As livestock production has become more concentrated in larger farms, production has become more concentrated in certain areas.

Previous studies have found that animal production can result in high concentrations of potentially harmful byproducts. Effluent from livestock farms can contaminate the groundwater and air.Certain gases associated with livestock farming have been found to be toxic and to contribute to overall air pollution levels. Livestock farming has also been associated with air-borne particulate matter.

Sneeringer found a statistically strong positive relationship between livestock farming and infant mortalitya 100 percent increase in livestock production in a county being associated with a 7.4 percent increase in infant mortality. Most of this effect occurs within the first twenty-eight days of life. Sneeringer interprets her results as reflecting damage to the fetus, as evidenced by higher rates of neonatal infant mortality, causes of death related to problems in the perinatal period, and lowered Apgar scores.

"The results of this article suggest that the mechanism by which this effect operates may be increased air pollution," Sneeringer notes. In a plea for more accurate data collection, she observes that "careful monitoring of groundwater and air pollutants near livestock farms will be necessary to form an accurate picture of their effect on public health."
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This study is published in the American Journal of Agricultural Economics. Media wishing to receive a PDF of this article may contact journalnews@bos.blackwellpublishing.net.

Stacy Sneeringer is affiliated with Wellesley College and can be reached for questions at ssneerin@wellesley.edu.

Published for the Agricultural & Applied Economics Association, the American Journal of Agricultural Economics provides a forum for creative and scholarly work in the field. Its content covers the economics of agriculture, natural resources and the environment, and rural and community development.

Wiley-Blackwell was formed in February 2007 as a result of the acquisition of Blackwell Publishing Ltd. by John Wiley & Sons, Inc., and its merger with Wiley's Scientific, Technical, and Medical business. Together, the companies have created a global publishing business with deep strength in every major academic and professional field. Wiley-Blackwell publishes approximately 1,400 scholarly peer-reviewed journals and an extensive collection of books with global appeal. For more information on Wiley-Blackwell, please visit www.blackwellpublishing.com or http://interscience.wiley.com.

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