Respiratory infections.

By Isa Isawade

It is observed that a lot of people are unaware of the health risks inherent in living close to poultry farms, hatcheries, and processing plants. Even majority of those who complain or protest when a commercial poultry farm is set up in their neighbourhood do not know the real danger.

They mostly complain of the stench emanating from the farm. If they know the bigger danger, they would not even allow it to take off in the first instance, unless the farmer has complied with the setbacks guidelines and other safety regulations.

Setback means the distance allowance that must be given between location of a poultry farm and residential buildings and other structures. For residential buildings other than poultry farms the setback must not be less than 500 feet; for public places such as schools, churches or mosques, it must not be less than 1,500 feet; for public raodways, it is 150 feet; and for streams, it is, at least, 100 feet.

The health risk is worse for the workers in poultry. This is the reason there are standard safety rules and regulations every poultry farm must comply with in order to safeguard the health and welfare of their workers.

A poultry farm: Living too close to it leads to health problems.

Below are the dangers.

1. Poultry dust: This is the biggest of the dangers. The dusts and feathers of birds emanating from poultry farms have been found to be very toxic. They contain dangerous micro-organisms which have been traced to debilitating airborne infections such as respiratory problems, asthma or chronic airway obstruction, bacterial and fungal diseases.

2. Zoonotic infections: These diseases are transmitted from birds to humans, especially, if the closeness leads to contact with the birds or their wastes. They include bacterial, viral, fungal, and parasitic diseases. Salmonellosis, campylobacteriosis, tuberculosis, and avian influenza are among the most common zoonotic diseases that are transmitted from poultry to humans.

3. Gasses: Harmful gasses used by poultry farms as pesticides, disinfectants, and litter treatments can cause health problems.

4. Offensive odour: This is the poultry problem in neibourhood commonly known to many, because the odour is easily perceivable. However, it is less deadly than the ones mostly hidden to majority. It is also bad for health and can make you feel seriously uncomfortable.

5. Noise: Endless combined noises of the birds and processing plants in poultry farms could put you at great discomfort and make you lose sleep regularly if you reside too close to the farm. Regular loss of sleep has serious health consequences.

6. Waste and dead-birds: Any poultry farm too close to residential areas, unless with superb waste and litter management, will put its neighbours at serious risk of disease transmission and possible epidemics. Feces of chickens and turkeys are found to contain pigeon antigens and, according to research, when the antigens get to human’s lungs, they may lodge there and start producing a variety of reactions.

7. Antibiotic-resistant bacteria: This is regarded as a risk for everyone, but there are suggestions that working in or living near poultry farm could lead to an increased risk of it. Scientists are still working on the theory.

8. Water quality: If the poultry farm is too close to the sources of water to the community, the water would get polluted by toxic feathers, dust, waste and emissions from the poultry operations, thereby, spreading water borne diseases among residents. Setback that must be observed as stated earlier is, at least, 100 feet away from streams.

9. Children: There is an elevated risk of respiratory health problems associated with living near poultry for children exposed to the toxic dust. Available researches show that children’s lungs are still in developing stage and therefore more fragile. This makes their lungs incapable of dispelling the toxic materials, thereby leaving harmful organisms to develop into big health problems.

10. Soil quality: The soil around poultry farms becomes reduced in quality and harmful because of heavy presence of toxic feathers, dust and industrial emissions.

It is, however, pertinent to mention here that this should not be misconstrued to mean that poultry farms are our enemies. Far from it. As a matter of fact, it is one of the most important sources of protein and nutrients needed by human to grow and stay healthy. Even, the eggs have been found by studies to be, not only nutritional, but very medicinal. World medical bodies have strongly recommended consumption of one egg per day to all categories of people, most especially, children. This is the reason poultry business remains one the most lucrative farming businesses anywhere.

The article is only meant to inform the public of the dangers of undesirable proximity between their residences and commercial poultry farms, and to also make the farms keep to the internationally acceptable safety guidelines and regulations for the benefit of all.