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‘I Was Coughing So Hard I Would Throw Up’

For hours every day, Angela Smith walked atop the concentrated excrement of thousands of pigs. As she tended to sows in the massive barns of an industrial hog facility north of her hometown of Canton, Missouri, the animals’ urine and feces continually fell through slatted floors into manure pits below her feet.

The smell of their excrement was often overwhelming. Fecal dust and ammonia—a hazardous gas produced from decomposing manure—burned her eyes and made them water. The dust and gas set her throat on fire, making it difficult to breathe.

After about a year of getting hired at Expedition Acres LLC, Smith developed a permanent cough. Her voice became raspy and laughing would throw her into coughing fits, even outside of work.

“My lungs couldn’t take it,” Smith told Civil Eats. “I was coughing so hard I would throw up.”