A recent study published in the current issue of the journal Environmental Health Perspective brings a new concern to the growing number of CAFOs—concentrated animal feeding operations—dominating the nation’s conventional meat and dairy industry: high blood pressure.
While a diet heavy in artery-clogging animal products is already known to cause cardiovascular issues like high blood pressure, researchers out of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill have found another connection between the two that’s not so obvious: The strong smells generated by the waste from hog farms seems to be contributing to an increased risk for hypertension, as the researchers noted in the study entitled “Air Pollution from Industrial Swine Operations and Blood Pressure of Neighboring Residents.”
The researchers had more than 100 residents located in towns near large pig CAFOs spend at least ten minutes outside per day. While outside, the subjects recorded the intensity of the odors emanating out from the hog factories on a 9-point scale. They then recorded their blood pressure levels on digital devices.
On the days when the odors were most intense, the researchers also noted an increased state of stress that caused blood pressure levels in the test subjects to rise. Frequent incidents of increased blood pressure can lead to stroke and heart disease.
Living near CAFOs has other risks too. A 2011 study also released by Steve Wing—lead author on this study—found residents in high CAFO odor risk areas frequently experienced irritation to they eyes and nose, wheezing and other breathing issues including tightness of the chest and shortness of breath, along with sore throats and bouts of nausea.
A 20 percent spike in the total number of CAFOs in the last five years brings the tally to nearly 2 billion chickens, pigs and cows living in dense and unsanitary conditions across the country.
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