Odour annoyance leads to health problems
Odour annoyance is common amongst people who live near intensive livestock farms with chickens or pigs, or in the vicinity of other kinds of farms with many chickens, pigs, or cows. And these people also have more health problems. Researchers from the Netherlands Institute for Health Services Research (NIVEL) and the Institute for Risk Assessment Sciences (IRAS) at Utrecht University have published their findings in the journal Annals of Agricultural and Environmental Medicine.
Can odours make you sick? Irritants can be dispersed into the environment along with the smell of manure, and regular odour annoyance can lead to chronic stress. A large number of public protests, general practitioners expressing their concerns, and citizens’ initiatives against odour annoyance in the De Peel region of the Netherlands led to an investigation into the health consequences for those who live in the area.
Odour annoyance and health
It has been shown that people who are bothered by odour have more health problems. They report more frequent coughs and colds, dizziness, stomach complaints, stomach aches, and constipation, and symptoms caused by chronic stress such as insomnia, anxiety, and depression. In addition, they assessed their own health as being considerably worse than the health of people who were not bothered by odours. But in spite of the fact that those who experience odour annoyance report more health problems, few of them go to their general practitioners for their complaints.
People over the age of forty, immigrants, and those with a higher educational level are more likely to be bothered by odours caused by large numbers of pigs, chickens, or cows within a 500-metre radius of their homes than other people. It is interesting to note that people who experience more odour annoyance have the impression that they live closer to the livestock operations than they actually do. NIVEL researcher Mariëtte Hooiveld: “They probably estimate the distance to the livestock operation as being less than it actually is because they associate their symptoms with livestock exposure.”
For the study, 753 people filled in a questionnaire. Health care utilisation data for these individuals were obtained from the electronic medical records of the general practices in the area. The number of pigs, chickens, and cattle within a radius of 500 metres was determined using data on permits for livestock operations in the provinces of North Brabant and Limburg.
The Dutch Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport and the Ministry of Economic Affairs