Thursday Roundup: Breathing CAFO Air

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The Environmental Integrity Project is reporting that federal data reveals that air at some factory farm test sites “is dirtier than in America’s most polluted cities and exposes workers to concentrations of pollutants far above occupational guidelines.” 

The new report takes its data from the Environmental Protection Agency, which collects air samples on some concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). 

“The results of a two year air monitoring study jointly sponsored by EPA and the livestock industry reveal that the air at some Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) may be unsafe, with levels of particulate matter, ammonia, or hydrogen sulfide at many sites well above federal health-based standards,” the report concludes.

EIP was particularly critical of an earlier decision by the EPA to halt enforcement of air pollution laws at CAFOs. The report states: 

Five years ago, EPA suspended enforcement of air pollution laws against CAFOs until the study was complete, and in 2008, EPA exempted CAFOs from most pollution reporting requirements altogether.  But the study shows that many CAFOs pollute in quantities large enough to trigger emission reporting laws that have applied to most other large industries for decades, and that Clean Air Act protections may be warranted to protect rural citizens … [The new] research confirms that the large CAFOs, or factory farms, that dominate the nation’s meat industry are major sources of ammonia emissions and other dangerous air pollutants.

 “The findings of the EIP analysis corroborate a large body of scientific evidence,” said Keeve E. Nachman, PhD, MHS, program director of Farming for the Future, Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, Bloomberg School of Public Health, also in the EIP press release.  “Animal production sites have been repeatedly demonstrated to release a wide spectrum of particulate and gaseous contaminants of concern; exposures to contaminants measured in the NAEMS study have been linked to a spectrum of adverse respiratory and mental health effects.” 

•The New York Times Thursday morning reported that rural Wyoming is suffering a bad case of ozone pollution. 

Nearly 200 miles from a large city (Salt Lake City), the area around Pinedale is recording high levels of ozone, the worst in three years. The paper says there are a number of factors contributing to the bad air. The Green River Basin is a valley. It’s sunny. And, the paper reports, its economy is “heavily based on natural gas drilling, which scientists say produces smog’s underlying chemical base.”

The Times reports that some residents want the Environmental Protection Agency to investigate how drilling for natural gas contributes to the areas pollution, but the “agency recently removed the topic from those it is considering for a national study of hydrofracking, a relatively new high-volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing method used in gas drilling in Wyoming and elsewhere.”

• Education Secretary Arne Duncan said that 8 out of 10 schools would miss academic targets this year set by the federal No Child Left Behind act, up from 37 percent last year. Under NCLB, passing rates are raised each year. 

Duncan did not say if passing rates would be higher or lower in rural schools.

• The House Ag Committee approved a bill Wednesday that would block the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating federally-approved pesticides under the Clean Water Act. 

 

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