Thursday 09 December 2021

Dust from poultry farms linked with pneumonia in new study

Brown chicken outside poultry farm in the Netherlands near Utrecht

People who live near a chicken farm are more likely to get pneumonia, according to new Dutch research.

A study by Utrecht university and UMC Utrecht teaching hospital, published in the scientific journal Pneumonia, says people living within a kilometre of a poultry farm have an 11% higher risk of getting the disease.

Researchers studied GPs’ records of 92,500 people living around Tilburg, Noord-Brabant, showing conclusively – reports the Volkskrant – that air pollution from the farms negatively affects the health of local residents.

“There is now more understanding about the exact causes of pneumonia near poultry farms,’ professor Dick Heederic from Utrecht university told the Volkskrant.

A prior study had looked at the bacteria in patient’s throats, suggesting that this was affected if they lived near a farm. ‘This means a potential villain like the pneumococcus [bacterium] has the chance to cause pneumonia,’ he said. ‘Unlike Q fever cases near goat farms, it does not seem that the cause is a specific bacterium in poultry farming. Last-scale dust emissions give the ever-present pneumococcus a chance to come out to play.’

Nico Ogink, a livestock researcher from Wageningen University & Research, who was not involved in the study, told the Volkskrant. ‘This seems to be the first evidence and a plausible explanation for pneumonia. People are not directly sick due to chicken dust, but the balance in their bacterial flora changes, making them more susceptible to bacterial pneumonia.’

The junior economic affairs minister Martijn van Dam told the paper that the study was ‘very disappointing’ but that it was now ‘inevitable that there will be measures to improve the health of residents.’

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