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What the science says about living near giant hog operations and methane digesters

Chris HeaneyBack in the 1990s, a University of North Carolina epidemiologist named Steve Wing pursued what was then a novel idea: to find out the health effects of living, drinking water, and breathing near CAFOs, he didn’t just set up sensors and draw blood from nearby residents. Instead, he consulted them about what questions to ask, often listing them as co-authors on academic papers. In the decades since, he spearheaded a large body of research demonstrating the dire health effects, physical and mental, of living amid the hog industry’s stench and pollution. Wing died of cancer in 2016. One of his proteges, Johns Hopkins University professor Chris Heaney, has carried on in Wing’s tradition—and is now studying how biodigesters affect life in the area. In the final episode of our biogas series, Heaney breaks down the community-directed research, and updates us on his ongoing biodigester work.