People who live or work near large livestock operations face an unfortunate new reality: Data on air pollution being released from livestock facilities will remain secret to the public. Congress recently passed a law that now exempts large-scale livestock operations from reporting the pollutants they release into the air. This new law comes as a response to a federal appeals court decision in 2017 that would have required livestock operations to make their air pollution data available to the public.

Needless Risk to Public Health

Large-scale livestock operations release a number of harmful air pollutants such as ammonia, hydrogen sulfide and methane, just to name a few. Each of these pollutants presents a variety of risks to human and livestock health, and those risks vary based on the pollutant concentration and the duration of exposure. In addition to health risks, odors coming from these facilities can significantly impact the quality of life for nearby residents or communities.

People have a right to know what pollutants they may be exposed to. This isn’t just for peace of mind. Access to pollutant exposure data is important to medical professionals seeking to diagnose patients facing illness. Communities preparing emergency plans for chemical releases or natural disasters may also utilize this information. The health and safety of nearby communities are needlessly put in jeopardy by exempting large-scale livestock operations from disclosing their pollutant release data.

Livestock Industry Should Do Their Part in Protecting Public Health

Numerous industries and operations – from mining and manufacturing to utilities and publishing – are required to report their air pollution to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s)  Toxic Release Inventory. So why shouldn’t livestock operations be held to the same standard? The rules requiring polluting industries to report air pollution are there to protect the public. Local residents have nothing to gain from large-scale livestock operations being exempted from reporting requirements – they only face uncertain exposure and risks to their health and quality of life.