Large factory farms are spewing toxic gases into the air that are causing human health problems, but the EPA refuses to act.
Imagine stepping onto your front porch to enjoy your morning coffee, but instead of fresh air and sunshine you’re met with an overpowering stench of the manure and filth from thousands of confined animals—a stench so strong that you’re forced inside. This is the reality for many Americans living in the vicinity of concentrated animal feeding lots (CAFOs), and new evidence is showing that the emissions from CAFOs are giving kids asthma and other health problems—but the EPA refuses to do anything about it.
Air pollution from CAFOs can cause numerous respiratory problems like asthma, and children are particularly vulnerable; a University of Iowa study found that kids who lived within a half mile of a CAFO had significantly higher rates of asthma than kids who lived further away. Some CAFOs emit dangerous gases such as methane, ammonia, and hydrogen sulfide—a particularly dangerous gas that can cause neurological problems, anger, and depression.
Are CAFOs held to federal standards for air pollution? No. Former EPA Director Scott Pruitt announced late in 2017 that the agency would not be regulating CAFOs under the Clean Air Act. Why? According to the EPA,
[The] complex nature of emission sources and emissions from this sector requires the agency to continue its comprehensive approach toward this sector by first evaluating CAFO emissions and then determining further regulatory actions to address these emissions.
Translation: the EPA cares more about protecting CAFOs from being held accountable for their pollution than looking out for Americans’ health and our environment.
Years ago, the EPA began studying emissions from CAFOs to determine if Clean Air Act rules would be applicable—a study which was funded by, you guessed it, the CAFO industry. Data collection was complete in 2010, but the EPA has been dragging its feet using all types of excuses: limitations in the data, difficulties in establishing standards that apply to all CAFOs, lack of expertise, etc. As a result, the EPA’s actions regarding air emissions from CAFOs are “on hold.”
The CAFO industry is fighting hard to make sure there is as little transparency about their practices as possible. Last year, a DC Circuit Court ordered the EPA to close a loophole allowing the emission of hazardous substances from CAFOs to go unreported. That’s right: it took a court order just to get CAFOs to tell the public what they were spewing into our air.
Through aggressive lobbying, the CAFO industry has prevented whistleblowers from exposing their cruel and unsanitary practices and avoided regulation of their air pollution. It’s time for some transparency.