Air Quality- Impact and Regulatory Issues

What animal agriculture-related emissions are potentially of regulatory concern?

  • Odors
  •  Ammonia
  • Hydrogen sulfide
  • Particulate matter (PM) 
  • Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) 
  • Greenhouse gases (GHGs) methane, nitrous oxide, and carbon dioxide.


What are the impacts of these emissions to humans?

Local Odors and particulate matter are animal agriculture-related emissions that have local impacts.  Odor is currently considered more of a “nuisance” and factors into neighbor relations.  Particulate matter, however, causes localized haze pollution, and the smallest particles are linked to human respiratory diseases.

Global Ammonia and GHGs emissions from animal agriculture are linked to global impacts. Ammonia emissions to the air contribute to the atmospheric deposition increasing the nutrient pollution that causes significant ecosystem impairments in large water bodies including the Chesapeake Bay, Great Lakes, and Gulf of Mexico.  Ammonia also reacts with other trace gases in the atmosphere, forming particulate matter (very fine particles) that contributes to haze pollution and consequent respiratory ailments.  GHGs emitted from animal agriculture operations include carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and methane, and are known to contribute to climate change.


How is animal agriculture regulated for air emissions?

Recently, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has included agriculture under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA).  Under EPCRA, concentrated animal feeding operations must report the continuous release of regulated emissions that exceed a threshold level of hundred pounds per day to local emergency management authorities for both ammonia and hydrogen sulfide emissions.

Also, farms in areas that exceed the National Ambient Air Quality Standard for PM2.5, (very fine particles that are 2.5 microns or less in diameter) called non-attainment areas, can be required by states to implement management practices to improve air conditions.


Contact Information

Eileen E.  Fabian (Wheeler)
  • Professor of Agricultural Engineering
Phone: 814-865-3552