Used poultry litter - which is nine parts manure by the time it is scraped out of the chicken houses after several years of accumulation - has been found to be "rich in genes called integrons that promote the spread and persistence of clusters of varied antibiotic-resistant genes," according to a May 2004 article in Farm and Dairy.
The Food & Water Watch report on poultry litter incineration cites studies showing that burning poultry litter for electricity on the Delmarva Peninsula would almost certainly depend on taxpayer subsidies. An analysis by the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources suggests that burning poultry litter "may actually produce as much or more toxic air emissions than coal plants." The emitted poultry litter toxins are carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, sulfuric acid, hydrochloric acid, volatile organic compounds, dioxin, particulate matter, and arsenic.
Inhalation of particulate matter contributes to respiratory infections and heart disease in both poultry and people, and dioxin is an established carcinogen. In his comment to the Wave, Mr. Dufty focuses particular attention on arsenic, which the industry puts in chicken feed to control intestinal coccidiosis, a ubiquitous disease of filth and stress in the poultry production environment. In addition, arsenic is fed to the chickens to promote abnormal weight gain and blood vessel growth for heavier, pinkish chicken flesh. Excreted into the litter, arsenic enters fertilizer, soil, and the waters of the Chesapeake Bay.