Air quality

August 12, 2016, Ontario, OH – The Ontario planning commission recently voted 4-0 to recommend that city council tweak its noxious odors ordinance, making it potentially a third-degree misdemeanor for farmers to fail to fix issues with strong manure smells from animals.

Under the proposed language council will consider, either the zoning inspector or his designee (probably a police officer) would go to the farm to verify whether there is an odor issue that should be corrected. READ MORE

June 24, 2016, Tarboro, NC – A North Carolina Federal Court ruled that an air pollution lawsuit involving a pig farm can proceed.

The lawsuit against the Hanor Company of Wisconsin was brought by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) plus Sound Rivers, Inc. and involves the farm’s failure to report its ammonia emissions.

The court rejected Hanor’s argument that an 11-year-old agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) exempts large farms from reporting emissions while the agency conducts air quality studies. According to the HSUS, the EPA has never completed the air studies at issue.

January 19, 2015 – In order to clean the air of pollutants, biotechnology expert Raul Pineda Olmedo, from the National University of Mexico (UNAM), designed a biofilter that uses microorganisms living in the shell of the peanut.

The research from the department of Environmental Technology noted that microorganisms grow naturally on peanut shell, which can be used to clean the air. Furthermore, in Mexico this material is generated in large amounts and is considered a worthless agricultural residue.

The idea is a prototype filter with peanut shells, which cultivates the microorganisms to degrade toxic pollutants into carbon dioxide and water, thereby achieving clean air.

"The peanut shell is special for these applications because it is naturally hollow and has an area of ​​contact with air, which favors the development of microorganisms," said Pineda Olmedo.

He also said it has been observed that this organic material can be applied to biotechnology as biological filters similar to those used by cars, but instead of stopping dust it can degrade the contaminants.

The prototype is similar to a bell or kitchen extractor, but it not only absorbs and stores polluting vapors, it degrades and purifies the air.

The design consists of a filter made with peanut shells containing microorganisms, which purify the air. For optimum development it should be in a temperature-controlled environment.

Olmedo Pineda explained that the filter takes on average 28 days to synthesize microorganisms such as Fusarium and Brevibacterium. Bacteria and fungi take the carbon from pollution to reproduce and breath.

In Mexico this technology has not been exploited extensively. The researcher currently seeks to commercialize the innovation, which is a solution applicable to everyday life.

September 1, 2015 – The recent outbreak of avian influenza, a highly contagious viral disease that has infected about 48 million birds in the United States, resulted in a significant loss to the poultry industry. The initial response by the poultry industry to prevent widespread avian influenza was to more stringently enforce the U.S. Department of Agriculture biosecurity measures defined by the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS).

However, the continuous spread of the avian influenza made the industry wonder if the disease is airborne and transmitted through ventilation air of poultry facilities. We are looking at major air emissions — ammonia gas and dust particles — from poultry facilities and their potential effects on poultry health to explore the need of additional biosecurity measures to prevent transmission of infectious diseases among poultry in the future. READ MORE

September 1, 2015, Washburn, WI — The Large Scale Livestock Study Committee listened to a presentation from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) Dr. Robert Thiboldeaux during its recent meeting.

Thiboldeaux is the senior toxicologist of Wisconsin Bureau of Environmental and Occupational Health. His presentation was called Air Quality and Livestock Operations. READ MORE

July 25, 2014, Ames, IA — The latest technology designed to reduce the odor from hog manure will be the focus of a conference next month at Iowa State University.

The Biofilter Conference on August 20 is held for producers and managers of animal feeding operations and others interested in learning about development of the latest equipment.

ISU agricultural and biosystems engineering professor Steve Hoff says biofilters can be an effective means to reduce odor and other gas emissions from ventilated animal and manure storage facilities. He says the conference will outline costs, effectiveness, management and other details, and provide sources of science-based information on biofilters.

A demonstration of biofilter operation with an Iowa State biofilter mobile unit is planned.

The event is being held in Room 260 of the Scheman Building. For more information, contact Steve Hoff at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or 515-291-2726.

The National Air Quality Site Assessment Tool (NAQSAT) is an online program originally developed to help livestock farmers evaluate the air emissions from their farms and determine the greatest opportunity for reducing those emissions.

Air emissions are a local, regional and global concern. Rural residents and state and federal regulatory agencies have an increased interest in the air emissions from livestock operations. With that in mind, it is in a livestock farmer’s best interest to take steps to better understand the pollutants emitted from their facilities.

Fresh and stored manure emits volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Up to 300 different VOCs have been identified within manure air emissions, including phenyls, acids and indoles. Although emitted from manure in small amounts, the VOCs are largely responsible for manure’s offensive odor character.

Odor is a local concern and contributes to community unrest and neighbor dissatisfaction with nearby livestock facilities. Most states have some type of odor regulation, however, between states, their application to livestock facilities is highly variable. In Michigan, odor is addressed within the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) Generally Accepted Agricultural and Management Practices (GAAMPs) for Site Selection and Odor Control for New and Expanding Livestock Facilities. Although not a regulation, the GAAMP suggests increased property line setbacks based on the number of animal units housed at a livestock production site. The property line setbacks rise as the number of animal units at a site increase.

Ammonia is emitted from livestock manure both from livestock housing and the manure storage area. Ammonia has been associated with atypical forest growth as well as excessive plant growth and decay in surface water. Ammonia emissions may combine with other air emissions to form small atmospheric particulates similar to smog. These particles may drift long distances before they are deposited, making ammonia emissions a regional concern.

Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions present a global concern. Carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide are all greenhouse gases emitted from livestock production sites. During the normal respiratory process, animals release carbon dioxide and plants absorb it. The generation of carbon dioxide from respiration is not included when considering a “carbon footprint.” Carbon dioxide is released from manure storages and can be stored in soils as soil organic carbon. Methane is emitted from manure storage facilities and fields, and by ruminants during the digestive process. Manure storage facilities and fields also emit nitrous oxide. Using information provided by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Pitesky, Stackhouse and Mitloehner (2009) reported that livestock production contributes only 2.8 percent of the total U.S. GHG emissions. The GHG emissions from livestock sites are comparatively small and at present these emissions are largely unregulated.

Emitted from stored manure, hydrogen sulfide presents both an odor and a health concern. The EPA has defined exposure limits to hydrogen sulfide. With respect to livestock farms, the greatest concern and risk to both human and animals from exposure to hydrogen sulfide occurs during the agitation and pumping of deep-pitted barns.

The National Air Quality Site Assessment Tool (NAQSAT) is an online program originally developed to help livestock farmers evaluate the air emissions from their farms and determine the greatest opportunity for reducing those emissions. The tool is also a useful program for livestock producers with a desire to learn more about the air emissions from their farms.

NAQSAT was first made available in 2010. Currently, the tool will evaluate air emissions from dairy, beef, swine, turkey, broiler chicken, layer hens and horse farms. As an online tool, it is not intended to be downloaded onto the user’s computer. Users of the tool provide inputs in eight management categories: animals and housing, feed and water, manure collection and transfer, manure storage, land application, mortalities, on-farm and nearby roads, and neighbor relations (perception). Users answer questions that pertain only to their situations since the program generates questions determined by answers to previous questions. Photos provide a useful visual comparison to aid users in answering. Users do not need to input facility size, number of animals and farm location to utilize the tool. Data entered into the tool can’t be identified back to the user, making all entries strictly confidential.

The tool’s output page includes seven air emissions: odor, dust, ammonia, hydrogen sulfide, methane, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and nitrous oxide in each of the eight management categories. Estimates of the quantity of each air pollutant are not part of the report. Rather, the tool utilizes a bar graph to indicate how well the farm is doing at controlling emissions for each of the seven pollutants in each of the management categories. In the sample results shown in the graphic, the green area in the boxes indicates how well the farm is doing for each pollutant and the white area indicates opportunity for improvement. Within the “Animals and Housing” management category the report indicates less opportunity for improvement of four emissions and greater opportunity to reduce ammonia and methane. (The seventh emission, nitrous oxide, was not applicable for this category in this sample.) The user may either click on the boxes associated with the emissions of concern (in this case, ammonia and methane) to find suggested resources or run additional scenarios to determine where improvements may be made to reduce those emissions. The amount of white showing in each bar for mortalities indicates there are many opportunities to improve management of dead animals on this farm.

NAQSAT is available online at: or by typing NAQSAT into most search engines.

In the future, addressing air emissions may become a component of conservation planning. Tools such as NAQSAT will play an important role in helping livestock farmers incorporate air emissions into those plans.

Jerry May is a senior Extension educator with Michigan State University Extension. Dr. Wendy Powers is a professor and director of Environmental Stewardship for Animal Agriculture Livestock Environment Management with Michigan State University.



June 30, 2014 – The U.S. EPA’s nine-year effort to document air pollution at livestock operations is likely still many years from completion and unlikely to be as useful as industry and environmental groups had hoped.

Still incomplete is what the EPA promised to do under a 2005 deal cut with livestock producers to identify air emissions for different types of concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs. The agency has said little about when the work will be done or when it will start three related regulatory tasks, according to sources outside EPA who track the issue closely. READ MORE

May 26, 2014, Washington, DC – Three cabinet-level officials are assuring Republican senators that the Obama administration has no plans to regulate methane emissions from the agricultural sector or livestock.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy and Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz told Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) and his colleagues in a letter that the Obama administration’s strategy to reduce methane emissions will seek only voluntary reduction measures from agriculture. READ MORE



My youngest child is obsessed with video and computer games, as many nine-year-old boys are. Hockey, FIFA soccer, Harry Potter, Mario kart, Sims – he plays them all.

One computer game that he seems to be particularly enamored of at the moment is Minecraft. I was relieved when I learned it had nothing to do with actual explosive mines but was more about building and developing a home, farming and finding precious gems. It sounded productive, wholesome. Then he had to ruin it by describing the monsters in the game that come out at night – the reason you need the shelter in the first place. You have the usual suspects – zombies and skeletons – but there’s one that makes me a bit uncomfortable. It’s called The Creeper.

No, I’m not afraid of pretend computer game monsters. For me, the term Creeper has always meant something else, something invisible and insidious that creeps up on you and catches you unawares. You can’t see it or smell it or hear it or taste it or feel it – it’s just suddenly there.

For me, the term Creeper has always been synonymous with poisonous gases. And, given the recent global spate of incidents involving that creeping manure gas, it seems almost fitting that my son has also been discussing his Creeper.

Back in June, three workers on a farm in the Netherlands died after they fell into an aboveground manure storage container. It’s believed the initial worker was cleaning the almost empty storage tank, wearing appropriate breathing apparatus, when he collapsed. Three other workers rushed to save him. Of the four, only one survived.

A month later, a mother and daughter died in China after they fell into a manure pit. It appears the pair were overcome by the manure gas as they tried to fish out a cellphone that had fallen into the pit. The husband and father of the pair jumped in after them; fortunately, he was saved by a neighbor.

That these incidents CAN happen comes as no surprise to people who work in the livestock and manure management industries – manure gases are dangerous and can kill. What is surprising is that, despite the publicity and educational opportunities that typically follow one of these tragedies, they STILL happen.

According to a recent report by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), when it comes to confined-space accidents where multiple people die, most of the victims are typically the rescuers, the people trying to help. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, would-be rescuers account for 60 percent of confined-space fatalities.

It wasn’t many years ago I reported on the deaths of five people at one Virginia dairy farm, four of them from the same family – father, mother and two daughters. And not many years later, two people were killed at a New England dairy farm. All were confined-space accidents involving manure gases.

It’s these kinds of incidents I think of when I hear about The Creeper. And it’s these kinds of incidents researchers at Penn State had in mind recently when they developed a new international standard for the proper ventilation of manure storage facilities (see the article on page 26). They are now in the process of developing an online design tool that will allow building professionals to create a ventilation system for any shape of facility – and keep out The Creeper.

Manure gas will be the topic of discussion during a presentation at the 2013 North American Manure Expo, being held Aug. 20 and 21 near Guelph, Ontario, Canada. For more information, visit
May 13, 2013, Yakima, WA — A group of Yakima Valley residents is seeking to limit when dairy operators can spray manure onto fields, a common practice in the dairy industry.

A Kennewick attorney representing the residents wants the Yakima Regional Clean Air Agency to prohibit the practice during high winds and when burn bans are in effect. READ MORE
May 8, 2013, Davis, CA – An agricultural air quality conference jointly sponsored by University of California ­– Davis and the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District will be held June 27-28 at the UC Davis conference center.

The conference’s major focus will be on discussing a “risk-based” strategy proposed by the SJVAPCD as an alternative to the current federal/state air quality regulatory framework. The SJVAPCD is currently one of only two areas in the nation (South Coast AQMD being the other) classified as “extreme” non-attainment for ozone.

Sessions include:
  • The Scientific Foundation for a Risk-Based Approach to Particulate Controls
  • Development of the Risk-Based Approach to Air Quality Policy and Public Health
  • Evolution Towards Low-Risk Pesticides
  • Applying the Approach to Policies – Potential Applications & Research Gaps.
  • Policy Efficacy of the RB/MP Approach: Opportunities and Constraints.
Optional tours include:
  • Bovine Bubbles
  • Anaerobic BioMass Digester
  • Olive Oil Center & Tasting
Registration information is available at
April 19, 2013, Boise, ID ― After being sued by an environmental group five years ago, the issue of air quality became front-and-center at DeRuyter Brothers Dairy in Outlook, WA.

So, when a voluntary monitoring program began in the area, DeRuyter was one of 12 farms that signed up.

“It worked out really well,” Genny DeRuyter told those attending the Western Dairy Air Quality Symposium recently. READ MORE

August 8, 2012 – The Agricultural and Environmental Research Unit (AERU) at the University of Hertfordshire has been awarded a research contract to review chemical additives used in livestock diets and to critically evaluate their potential for delivering environmental benefits such as reducing waste gases that may contribute to climate change.

Livestock productivity is dependent on the animals being well kept and healthy, and this depends on them receiving adequate nutrition. Existing evidence shows that livestock feed can be improved by the use of feed additives that not only improve diet and health but can also be used, for example, to increase milk yields, suppress the oestrus (female reproductive) cycle or even improve digestion in livestock. When properly used in a well-managed environment, many of these additives can substantially improve performance and farm profitability.

The study, funded by the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA), is to be completed by spring 2013. It will undertake a thorough, critical and systematic review to produce a global inventory of current feed additives that offer environmental benefits. This information will support the current European regulatory process on feed additives, and will help develop more sustainable policies in this area.

“Feed additives must meet the necessary safety standards but they can also help to deliver environmental benefits,” said Dr. Kathy Lewis, reader in agri-environmental science. “They have an important role to play in delivering sustainable increases in productivity but can be used to improve digestive processes in livestock which will reduce waste production including methane, ammonia and other metabolic gases.”

June 11, 2012, St. Joseph, MI – The American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers (ASABE) recently announced the publication of a newly revised standard on the management of manure odors.

The revised standard – ASAE EP379.5 APR2012, Management of Manure Odors – corrects outdated acknowledges and includes updated reference information as noted in the most recent periodic review of the document. Additional wording clarifications and format changes were also included in the revision.

ASABE members with standards access and those with site-license privileges can access the full-text via electronic download on the ASABE online Technical Library. Others can obtain a copy for a fee directly from the library or by contacting ASABE headquarters at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

ASABE is recognized worldwide as a standards developing organization for food, agricultural, and biological systems, with more than 240 standards currently in publication. Conformance to ASABE standards is voluntary, except where required by state, provincial, or other governmental requirements, and the documents are developed by consensus in accordance with procedures approved by the American National Standards Institute.

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