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Ammonia Concentrations and Emissions in Livestock Production Facilities: Guidelines and Limits in the USA and UK
Published by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, St. Joseph, Michigan www.asabe.org
Citation: Paper number 034112, 2003 ASAE Annual Meeting . (doi: 10.13031/2013.14109) @2003
Authors: Christopher M Wathes, Theo G M Demmers, Hongwei Xin
Keywords: Ammonia, Livestock, Emissions, Standards, Limits
There is much information about the concentrations and emissions of ammonia in
livestock production facilities in Europe and North America; examples of best and worst practice
have been identified in terms of building design and environmental management. Numerically,
cattle are the largest source of ammonia emissions, while the ammonia concentration in swine
and poultry buildings is much higher than in cattle sheds.
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In this paper, we review the grounds for concern over ammonia and question whether current
guidelines and limits are sufficient to protect farmers, livestock and the environment. Firstly,
epidemiological studies of worker health have shown that swine, and to a lesser extent, poultry
workers experience occupational respiratory disease in which chronic ammonia exposure may
play a part: current occupational exposure limits for ammonia are probably too high and should
be revised downwards. Secondly, the scientific evidence that ammonia exposure affects animal
health and performance is less convincing - though this is contrary to the empirical wisdom of
veterinarians and farmers - and the guidelines are correspondingly unclear. A new guideline is
provided from preference studies that show that pigs and chickens avoid ammonia concentrations
above 10 ppm. Overall, only tentative guidelines for ammonia concentration can be proposed on
the grounds of animal health, performance and welfare. Finally, as a result of international
protocols, e.g. the UNECE convention on the long-range transport of air pollutants, individual countries are now expected to limit their ammonia emissions at a national level. This intention
has not (yet) been translated into a specific limit on emission for individual farms. In the USA, but
not UK, guidelines have also been suggested for ammonia concentration at the property line of
animal feeding facilities.