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Health of people in the vicinity of livestock farming

In 2014, a study started on the health of people living in the vicinity of livestock farming. This large-scale study is being carried out by RIVM, the Institute for Risk Assessment Sciences (IRAS) of the Utrecht University, Netherlands Institute for Health Services Research (NIVEL) and Wageningen UR to assess the relationship between livestock farming and the risk of disease in the people living in the surrounding area.

Study set up

The study comprises a number of components. The first is an analysis of data on 110,000 patients supplied by general practitioners anonymously. Some 15,000 people in this group have completed a questionnaire on respiratory complaints, and 2,500 people have undergone health checks, which included antibodies in the blood, lung function tests, and the presence of resistant bacteria in the nose and faeces. In addition, air measurements were made to establish air emissions from livestock farming and the dispersal of emissions in areas where people are exposed.

By relating the results of the health investigations and air measurements, more information can be obtained on livestock farming and the health effects on people living in the surrounding area.

The study is being carried out in municipalities in Brabant and Limburg because many people there live nearby to livestock farming. There are a large number of diverse livestock production units in the eastern part of Noord Brabant and the northern part of Limburg. Researchers expect that the study results can be used to make an estimate for the rest of the Netherlands.

Preliminary results

Fewer people with asthma and COPD live close to livestock production. But COPD patients who live in the neighbourhood of livestock production have respiratory complaints more often than people with COPD living elsewhere. This is the initial result of the completed study components in which respiratory complaints in people living near livestock production were investigated. The result is based on analysis of data from general practitioners and the questionnaire completed by 15,000 people on respiratory complaints and medication used. However, at this stage of the investigation, the researchers do not have an explanation for these findings.

And further

The researchers are investigating whether, in addition to asthma and COPD, there are other health problems associated with livestock production, for instance, pneumonia and zoonotic diseases. Some 2,500 people are participating in this study, and the results are expected to be available in 2016.

Cooperation

This study is being carried out by RIVM in cooperation with the Institute for Risk Assessment Sciences (IRAS) of the Utrecht University, the Netherlands Institute for Health Services Research (NIVEL) and Wageningen UR, including Central Veterinary Institute and Livestock Research. It is financed by the Ministries of Health, Welfare and Sport and of Economic Affairs.

 

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