The growth of concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) has caused significant environmental detriments and raised concerns regarding environmental justice with CAFOs exposure.
This study examined environmental disparities in exposure to CAFOs with several environmental justice related variables and considered exposure intensity.
We obtained data on permitted CAFOs (July 2021) from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. We used Census tract level variables from the 2010 Census to evaluate environmental disparities by environmental justice related variables (i.e., percentages of Non-Hispanic White, Non-Hispanic Black, or Hispanic; percentage living below the poverty level; median annual household income; income inequality (Gini index); percentage with education less than high school diploma; racial isolation (RI) for Non-Hispanic Black; and educational isolation (EI) for population without a college degree). We assessed exposure to CAFOs as the sum of animal units (AUs) within each Census tract and investigated exposure disparities by comparing distributions of environmental justice related variables based on CAFO status (i.e., never, expired, or current) and Census tract-level CAFOs exposure intensity categories (i.e., from low exposure (quartile 1) to high exposure (quartile 4)).
CAFOs in Wisconsin were generally located in areas with lower percentages of racial minority persons and high SES communities; however, within the areas with current CAFO exposure, areas with high CAFOs exposure intensity had higher percentages of non-Hispanic Black and Hispanic, and lower percentages of non-Hispanic White populations compared to areas with low CAFOs exposure.
This study compared distributions of CAFO exposure and multiple environmental justice related variables and considered exposure intensity based on animal units for CAFOs exposure metric. Although CAFOs in Wisconsin were generally located in areas with lower percentages of racial/ethnic minority subpopulations and high SES communities, we found complex disparities with higher exposure for disadvantaged communities within areas with CAFOs. This work adds to the existing evidence that some populations such as racial/ethnic minority populations may face disproportionate burdens from CAFOs.
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All data for environmental justice related variables are publicly available from the Census Bureau’s website. Data on CAFOs are available through a request to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.
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We would like to thank the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources for providing data on CAFOs.
This publication was developed under Assistance Agreement No. RD835871 was awarded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to Yale University. It has not been formally reviewed by EPA. The views expressed in this document are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the Agency. Research reported in this publication was supported by the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number R01MD012769. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.
The authors declare no competing interests.
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Son, JY., Bell, M.L. Concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) in relation to environmental justice related variables in Wisconsin, United States. J Expo Sci Environ Epidemiol (2023). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41370-023-00598-y