Impact of Aerosols on Respiratory Health of Dairy Workers and Residents Living Near Dairies – Discussion and Implications of Recent Research

Recent studies of large modern dairies have found that respiratory disease remains an important problem for dairy workers, contributing to lost time and high turnover.   Exposure to high levels of organic dusts generated during milking, moving cows, feeding and other tasks has been associated with increased inflammation and decreased lung function resulting in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma-like diseases.   Much research into the cause of respiratory disease in agriculture has focused on the role of endotoxins – a chemical component of Gram-negative bacteria.  Recent research suggests that other components of these dusts such as Gram-positive bacteria and fungi are also important.  Many new workers adapt to these exposures, and new evidence suggests that individual behavior and genetic factors play a key role in explaining why some workers are more susceptible.  In addition several new studies of communities living in the vicinity of dairies and other livestock operations have shown that low level exposure to bioaerosols containing endotoxins and other microbial components at a very young age may be protective against the development of asthma later in life, possibly through priming of the immune system.   Dairy producers are faced with interpreting complex research that may appear to show conflicting results.  This presentation will review and discuss research into the impact of aerosols on respiratory health of dairy workers and residents living near dairies – the findings and implications for dairy producers.


Reynolds, Stephen Colorado State University, High Plains Intermountain Center for Agricultural Health and Safety  

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