Respiratory Protection (Sample News Release)

One cause of disability among farmers and other agricultural workers is respiratory disease. The farm environment is one that exposes workers to substances that may be damaging to the respiratory tract. These include:

  • dusts, that can include bacteria, molds and other by-products found in spoiled plant material, from decaying grain, hay and silage, that can cause organic dust toxic syndrome and Farmer's Lung disease;
  • livestock confinement dusts and gases;
  • silo gas and manure storage gases, which can cause serious respiratory illness and sudden death; and,
  • agricultural chemicals, including insecticides, and anhydrous ammonia.

Because dangers to the respiratory system exist, a piece of protective equipment a farmer can use is a respirator. There are many types of respirators available and it's important to match the respirator to the job you'll be doing. Be sure to select a respirator that is certified by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).

There are two categories of respiratory protection: supplied air and air purifying respirators. Supplied Air Respirators (ie. self contained breathing apparatus) provide the person wearing it with clean, uncontaminated air to breathe. These are used in dangerous areas such as manure pits and silos. Most farmers have little use for supplied air respirators because special training is required to use and maintain them. The most commonly used respirator for farm work is the air purifying respirator that removes the contaminants from the air. Types of air purifying respirators include:

  • mechanical filter respirators that can be used for dusts and mists;
  • chemical cartridge masks that can be used for dusts, mists, fumes, sprays, and a variety of gases and vapors including pesticides;
  • gas masks that can be used for protection from gases and vapors; and
  • powered air purifiers that can offer protection from dusts, mists, fumes, and chemicals.

Different types of respirators require different amounts of maintenance. Be sure to check manuals and maintain them carefully.

While respirators can protect you from many irritants, remember they will protect you only if used properly and matched to the contaminate which you will be exposed. Please remember that atmospheres that are oxygen deficient or pose an immediate danger to your life should never be entered.

Dominic Coppolo, Assistant Research Director, NYCAMH.

This public service announcement was produced by the New York Center for Agricultural Medicine and Health (NYCAMH), One Atwell Road, Cooperstown, New York 13326 - Ph# (607) 547-6023 or (800) 343-7527 in the northeast. Publication date: 1994.

Disclaimer and Reproduction Information: Information in NASD does not represent NIOSH policy. Information included in NASD appears by permission of the author and/or copyright holder. More