study may add to farm debate
Scientific data specific to Ohio being gathered
By Ben Sutherly
Dayton Daily News
COLUMBUS | An air-quality study under way at three large
livestock and poultry farms in northwest Ohio could contribute
something that's been missing from the environmental debate
about the state's consolidating animal production industry:
scientific data specific to Ohio.
Ohio State University researchers collected air samples
from the three farms in March and in June; a third and
final round of sampling is scheduled this month. Researchers
plan to assemble a report this fall.
"Our goal is to try to have an understanding of
air-quality parameters at typical Ohio farms," said
Lingying Zhao, an Ohio State University professor and
the study's principal researcher. Those parameters will
give researchers a better understanding of the health
risks associated with breathing air on large farms.
The three farms include a 650-cow dairy; a 1,000-head
hog farm; and an egg farm with about 90,000 chickens,
said Glen Arnold, an Ohio State professor and agricultural
agent with the Ohio State University Extension in Putnam
Arnold put researchers in touch with livestock producers
willing to have air on their farms tested. He declined
to identify the three farms, whose owners agreed to participate
in the study on the condition that they remain anonymous.
The farms are typical of large livestock and poultry
farms built in recent decades across the state, especially
in Darke and Mercer counties. The two counties are home
to roughly half of the state's so-called "megafarms"
- farms that confine more than 1,000 cattle, 700 dairy
cows, 2,500 swine, 10,000 sheep, 125,000 meat chickens,
82,000 egg-laying hens and 55,000 turkeys.
The amount of research available about air emissions
in and near housing for livestock and poultry and manure
storage areas remains limited, despite growing concern
about the issue in recent years. In a nationwide survey
last fall, the Dayton Daily News found half of the 46
states reporting megafarms held them to air-quality standards.
Four states - Minnesota, Wisconsin, Nebraska and South
Carolina - enforced limits on gas emissions from the big
Mike Brugger, an Ohio State professor said he and other
researchers are measuring hydrogen sulfide, ammonia and
carbon dioxide levels both inside and outside buildings
at the three farms, as well as dust and weather conditions.
The group also is collecting air samples to send to Purdue
University's odor laboratory for testing.
The researchers are collecting data at 14 points at each
farm using two kinds of equipment to ensure accurate readings.
They are testing air upwind and downwind of animal housing,
as well as inside the buildings and downwind of any manure
Researchers have not drawn conclusions about data they've
collected so far, Brugger said, but he noted that the
Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the
National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health have
recommended exposure levels for the gases being studied
at the three farms.
So far, "We've seen nothing that comes close to
those figures," Brugger said.
The Great Lakes Center for Agricultural Safety in Columbus
and the university are funding the study. Funding has
been secured for a second study at three different farms
next year, but Brugger said limited conclusions can be
drawn even after that study is completed.
"With just two sets of data points for two different
dairy farms or two different swine farms or two different
poultry farms each season, you truly can't define what's
the worst case (and) what's the best case," Brugger
said. " . . . We would like to do more farms of each
species so we can start getting a sense of variability