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Dose-Response Relationships Between Occupational Aerosol Exposures and Cross-Shift Declines of Lung Function in Poultry Workers:: Recommendations for Exposure Limits

Donham, Kelley J. MS, DVM; Cumro, Debra DVM, MS; Reynolds, Stephen J. PhD; Merchant, James A. MD, DrPH

Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine: March 2000 - Volume 42 - Issue 3 - p 260-269

Numerous articles have been published regarding the adverse respiratory health consequences of working in intensive livestock and poultry housing. Threshold limit exposure guidelines are not currently applied to this environment, but they are essential to implement and monitor effective environmental controls. Previous dose-response research work with swine workers has resulted in exposure limit recommendations of 2.5 mg/m3 total dust, 0.23 mg/m3 respirable dust, 100 EU/m3 endotoxin, and 7 ppm ammonia. No similar recommendations have been reported previously for poultry workers. Therefore, an industry-wide study was conducted to examine dose-response relationships of bioaerosol exposures and worker respiratory health. A total of 257 poultry workers were studied for respiratory symptoms, pulmonary function, and exposure to dust (total and respirable), endotoxin (respirable and total), and ammonia. Details of the sampling plan and environmental assessment are described elsewhere. Relationships between exposures and response were studied by correlation and multiple regressions. Significant dose-response relationships were observed between exposures and pulmonary function decrements over a work shift. Exposure concentrations associated with significant pulmonary function decrements were as follows: 2.4 mg/m3 total dust, 0.16 mg/m3 respirable dust, 614 EU/m3 endotoxin, and 12 ppm ammonia.

From the Department of Preventive Medicine and Environmental Health, and the Institute for Rural and Environmental Health, The University of Iowa; and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

Address correspondence to: Kelley J. Donham, DVM, Department of Preventive Medicine and Environmental Health, The University of Iowa, 100 Oakdale Campus, 124 IREH, Iowa City, IA 52242-5000.

©2000The American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine