Posted on Feb 26, 2010 in Uncategorized


By L. Terry Chappell, M.D.


            Excessive use of antibiotics in clinical practice contributes to resistant strains of bacteria.  Recent evidence links the massive use of antibiotics in animal food production to antibiotic resistance.  Antibiotic resistance is particularly relevant to vulnerable populations, such as the very young and very old and those with compromised immunity.  In addition, increasing amounts of certain toxic metals have been accumulating in the environment. This a critically important issue for family physicians.

            Antibiotic-resistant infections are a significant challenge to the medical community.  Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) now appears in outpatient populations.  Multidrug resistant E. coli has increased tenfold in the last decade.  Resistant strains of Campylobactor and Salmonella are not uncommon. 

            Both large and small farms that raise livestock often use antibiotics to prevent diseases and increase growth.  The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that more than 54% of livestock is now confined to 5% of farms.  The Environmental Protection Agency defines CAFOs as farms with greater than 1000 beef cattle, 2500 hogs, or 100,000 broiler hens.  Texas cattle feedlots can hold 50,000-100,000 head.  In North Carolina, 10,000-head hog operations are not uncommon.  Up to 400,000 chickens are gathered into bigger operations. 

Not only do CAFOs use large amounts of antibiotics, but they also generate massive amounts of manure.  Processing this amount of manure, which is estimated to be 575 billion pounds per year nationwide, is difficult.  CAFOs collect waste from hogs and cows into large, open-air lagoons.  These lagoons concentrate antibiotics, pathogenic bacteria, heavy metals (especially arsenic but also lead and mercury), endotoxins and other substances.  CAFOs spray liquid from the lagoons over nearby crop-land as a fertilizer.  Noxious gases are a byproduct, particularly methane, hydrogen sulfide, and ammonia.  Run-off from the lagoons and the spray seeps into the water supply.  Toxic metals contribute to chronic degenerative diseases, but they are often missed simply because they are not tested for.  Treatment of chelating agents eliminates one of the major risk factors for degenerative diseases and make disease control more effective.


For references, contact the author.  For additional information on antibiotic resistance, contact Ellen Mee, Director of Environmental Health Programs for the Ohio Environmental Council,

Disclosure—Dr. Chappell served as a paid medical consultant in a Paulding County lawsuit of residents vs. a CAFO in 2004.  The lawsuit was settled with terms confidential.


Contact Info:                L. Terry Chappell, M.D.

                                    122 Thurman St.  P.O. Box 248

                                    Bluffton, Ohio 45817


                                    FAX  419-358-1855