Respiratory Safety

Respiratory hazards in places of agricultural employment (barns, manure pits, machinery, and silos) range from acute to chronic air contaminants. Farmworkers' most common respiratory hazards are bioaerosols, such as organic dusts. This page discusses hazards of organic dusts, along with safety measures employers can implement to minimize the risk of exposure.

Organic Dust Hazards

Organic dust comes from hay, grain, fuel chips, straw, and livestock. Organic dust includes molds, pollens, bacteria, pesticides, chemicals, feed and bedding particles, and animal particles including hair, feathers, and droppings. Heavy concentrations of organic dust are common in grain dryers, livestock pens, and swine buildings or other enclosed spaces.

Long-term exposure to organic dust can lead to:

  • Congestion;
  • Coughing or wheezing;
  • Sensitivity to dust; and
  • Frequent infections, such as colds, bronchitis, and pneumonia.

Over time, exposure to organic dust can result in serious respiratory illnesses that include:  

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