One Health and CAFOs

In October 2018, NACCHO’s Board of Directors approved a new policy statement on Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) in response to concerns from local health departments. CAFOs are animal feeding operations with more than 1,000 animal units (e.g., 1,000 head of beef cattle, 700 dairy cows, 2,500 swine >55 lbs., 125,000 broiler chickens, or 82,000 laying hens) confined on site for more than 45 days during the year. The waste produced on CAFOs is known for contaminating nearby water systems through fecal matter deposits and adding excess nutrients that harm the aquatic ecosystem. Research has begun to link CAFO byproducts (e.g., methane, ammonia, nitrates, pathogens, growth hormones, antibiotics, animal blood, etc.) to increased public health and environmental health risks, yet there are likely additional indicators to identify and measure to ensure public safety.

Hurricanes Florence brought CAFOs into the national news cycle with stories and images of flood waters carrying CAFO waste into public water systems, exacerbating the health risks of flood waters. While CAFOs are regulated to some extent, there are no permit regulations in place to hold a CAFO facility liable in the event of a storm surge, as was the case during the hurricane. In other words, any river or stream contamination from CAFO waste is left for the public to contend with.

As we celebrate One Health Day 2018, we urge a collaborative approach to research the impact of CAFOs on the health of people, domestic animals, wildlife, plants, and our environment. NACCHO advises federal, state, and local governments and related agencies to continue research initiatives and enact legislation to manage the human and environmental health risks of CAFOs. Through a collective approach, we can advance local, state, and national policies to address CAFO-related pollution (e.g., air, ground water, surface water, and land); particularly those that prevent, mitigate, or eliminate burdens that disproportionately affect the health of vulnerable populations.

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