Iowa should call a moratorium on construction of livestock confinements to protect people's health, and eventually should limit how many animals can be in a given area, according to a new scientific report published in the online edition of Environmental Health Perspectives.

Scientists from the University of Iowa and University of North Carolina led a summit on confinement issues in Iowa two years ago. The U.S. government’s National Institutes of Health financed the group study. The group contends more study is needed on the psychological, physiological, mental health, quality of life and respiratory effects of confinement emissions.

"Although sufficient research exists to support action to protect rural residents from the negative community health impacts of (confinements), additional research could be conducted to further delineate mechanisms of effects and impacts on susceptible subgroups," according to one of six reports from work groups.

That group also recommended that all new confinements be forced to write environmental-impact statements, that local officials approve permits after public meetings that confinements meet emissions standards that apply to other industries, and that developers bond for manure-storage basins to pay for cleanup later.

The team of scientists also endorsed the American Public Health Association's call for a moratorium on new confinements until some of the health questions can be studied.

Liz Wagstrom, assistant vice president of science and technology for the National Pork Board, says the moratorium call is not supported by the research, some of which was left out of the University of Iowa report. She added that the board now is involved in $7 million worth of research that gets at the public-health questions, something that wasn't acknowledged, either. She agreed that much more study is needed.

The university scientists, who excluded scientists offered by the National Pork Board, contend enough evidence exists to suggest there are clear health threats from the operations. Pork industry representatives contend the reports left out significant scientific papers and drew conclusions that aren't supported by scientific findings. They added that research has shown that operations that meet current regulations pose little threat.

Eldon McAfee, attorney for the Iowa Pork Producers Association, says there is no scientific backing for the working group claim of clear health effects from confinement emissions. IPPA opposes local control because it would be an unnecessary disruption to a keystone industry, and considers existing laws good protection against pollution.

"In any case, it's the producers who live nearest the confinements," says McAfee. “Those producers want to stop pollution for their own benefit as well as the community's.”

Source: Des Moines Register