Do You Have the Worst Neighbor in America?

The surprising reason you should eat less bacon.

November 6, 2012

Modern-day pig farming creates heart-damaging air pollution, experts say.

Let's be real here. Chances are your neighbor's gotten on your nerves at least once or twice. A power tool returned out of order, a messy lawn, and moodiness are just a few reasons you may sometimes despise the person living next door.


But things could definitely be worse. You could live next to an industrial pig farm.

Living near a concentrated animal-feeding operation, or CAFO, could mean you're subjected to water pollution, a poor quality of life, and even odors so vile they can make you permanently sick.

In a new study published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, University of North Carolina researchers found that people exposed to bad stenches associated with factory pig-farming were more likely to experience acute high blood pressure, a risk factor for chronic hypertension.

To be specific, we're not talking about pigs raised on a mom-and-pop farm. North Carolina is the hub for industrial swine farms, where now more than 10 million hogs are raised in confined conditions. This change in agriculture has resulted in tens of thousands of hogs inside buildings, open waste pits, and hazardous air and water pollution, according to the consumer protection group Food & Water Watch.

The latest study shows that residents downwind of industrial pig farms face short-term health effects. Researchers asked about 100 nonsmokers who lived near swine CAFOs to sit outside for two scheduled 10-minute periods a day for about two weeks. The residents ranked the odor levels and took their blood pressure after each session. Devices also tracked levels of common contaminants common near factory pig farms, including hydrogen sulfide. Turns out, that contaminant causes higher stress levels and blood pressure, which could contribute to chronic hypertension.

Find Out If You Live Near a CAFO
You probably can smell if you live near a CAFO, but to be sure, check out Food & Water Watch's interactive factory farm map. This can help point out potential health threats and advise about how to deal with them.

Put CAFOs Out of Business
The more you pay attention to where your food comes from and support sustainable farmers, the sooner these polluting farms will be forced to either clean up their acts or go out of business. Visit to find smaller farmers in your area.

Since sustainable food may be more expensive because farmers give animals more space and feed them higher-quality food, eating less meat is a viable option. According to many studies, it's healthier for you, too. For especially healthy meat products, look for products from grass-fed animals.

How to Stop a Factory Farm from Moving In
A good reason to keep up with your local news and attend municipal meetings? You can get a leg up on factory farms applying for permits in your area. Here's a guide from Sierra Club that helps explain ways to keep a factory farm out of your area.

What to Do If You Live Near a Factory Farm
If you already live in an area with an operating CAFO, use this Sierra Club CAFO guide to learn how you and your neighbors can mobilize to protect yourselves.

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