No More "Foul" Air From This Chicken Coop
Peabody May 10, 2007
If only there were a nifty device that could filter the air leaving
chicken coops to reduce the levels of potentially harmful ammonia, dust and
pathogenic microbes that enter the atmosphere. Soon there may be, thanks to an
Agricultural Research Service (ARS)
scientist in Fayetteville, Ark.
Moore, who works in the agency's
Production and Product Safety Research Unit, has developed and patented a
simple scrubber that cleans air exhausted from poultry houses, as well as from
facilities where swine are raised.
Ammonia can be problematic in these buildings, especially during the
winter months when operators are trying to conserve heat. High concentrations
of the gas have been known to cause health problems in birds, including an
increased vulnerability to viral diseases, reduced growth rate, decreased egg
production and blindness.
Besides its offending odor, high levels of ammonia gas are also
detrimental to agricultural workers. And when ammonia escapes into the
atmosphere, it can contribute to acid rain and increase the amount of nitrogen
entering fragile aquatic systems, which can instigate troubling algal blooms.
Recent reviews conducted for the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency indicate that animal manure is one of the
largest sources of atmospheric ammonia in the United States.
Moore's "wet scrubber" is designed so that a solution of aluminum
sulfate, or alum, cascades down a series of wooden slats, grabbing ammonia,
dust and pathogens in the air as it goes. It's capable of netting more than 10
pounds of nitrogenas ammoniain a 24-hour period. This nitrogen can
then be applied as fertilizer to nearby pastures and fields.
The key to the recently patented system is the alum, a proven ammonia
and phosphorus combatant whose antipolluting powers Moore discovered 14 years
ago. While alum is already being used to help raise 700 million chickens each
year in the United States, new air-filtering technologies, being explored by
ARS researchers, are needed.
ARS is the U.S. Department of
Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.