Potential Health Hazards to Agricultural Workers in Swine Confinement Buildings

  • Donham, Kelley J.;
  • Kammermeyer, John K.;
  • Rubino, Michael;
  • Thedell, Terry D.


The following points summarize the findings in this study:

  1. Four gases were measured (carbon dioxide, hydrogen sulfide, carbon monoxide, ammonia); each of the gases exceeded the respective TLV in one or more units;
    • Carbon monoxide exceeded the TLV in three of the units when measuring during winter months;
    • Carbon dioxide exceeded the TLV in 10 of the 13 units when measured during winter months;
    • Ammonia exceeded the TLV in two of the units during the summer, and met or exceeded the TLV in 12 of the 13 units during winter measurements;
    • Hydrogen sulfide met or exceeded the TLV in two units during summer measurements and two units during winter measurements;

  2. It was very common for more than one gas to be in excess of the TLV in a given unit;
  3. A high percentage of dust measured in the confinement units was of respirable size;
  4. Interviews indicated a high percentage of swine confinement workers suffer adverse upper respiratory symptoms;
  5. In-depth clinical work-ups on two swine confinement workers did not reveal the pathogenesis of their symptoms.

This preliminary study suggests that swine confinement units are often contaminated with gases and dusts in sufficient quantities to create an unhealthy work environment. Interviews with workers in these units suggest that a high percentage of individuals suffer at least short term ill effects from work in the units.

Reports from the literature and this preliminary study strongly suggest that occupational health problems exist in confinement feeding. The population at risk includes farmers, their family members, employees, and veterinarians. However, not enough is known to recommend work place standards to assure compliance with the Occupational Health and Safety Act of 1971. More in depth studies are required to fully describe the work environment and to document acute and particularly chronic health conditions that may result from occupational exposure.


JOURNAL: J Occup Med. 1977; 19(6): 383-387.

Note: Journal of Occupational Medicine.

NLOM ID#: 77209176

Publication #: 77209176

This document was extracted from the CDC-NIOSH Epidemiology of Farm Related Injuries: Bibliography With Abstracts, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Centers for Disease Control, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

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