TUESDAY, Aug. 17 (HealthDay News) -- Poultry litter can be a
significant source of arsenic in the farm field runoff that finds
its way into streams and rivers, new research indicates.
Arsenic is a poisonous chemical linked with cancer and other
health problems in humans.
Chicken feed is sometimes supplemented with roxarsone, an
arsenic-containing compound that's meant to control parasites and
promote weight gain. Most of the arsenic is excreted by the
chickens and gets mixed in with sawdust and other litter materials
in poultry houses. When this litter is cleaned from the poultry
houses, farmers use it to fertilize their crops, explained the U.S.
Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service (ARS)
Over a two-year period, Clinton Church of the ARS Pasture
Systems and Watershed Management Research Unit in University Park,
Pa., and colleagues measured arsenic levels in runoff flowing from
farm fields into drainage ditches in an area that features
large-scale poultry production, in the Delmarva (Delaware,
Maryland, Virginia) Peninsula.
The researchers found that annual arsenic losses from these
fields ranged from 0.004 to 0.071 kilograms per hectare. The
highest levels of arsenic in runoff was recorded in a ditch closest
to a shed where poultry litter was stored.
The findings will be published in the November/December issue of
Journal of Environmental Quality.
The scientists said their research emphasizes the importance of
controlling point sources of arsenic. Improved management
practices, such as properly storing dry litter and controlling
litter spills outside storage facilities, may help reduce the
release of arsenic into streams and rivers, they suggest.
The U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry has