Department of Public Health Sciences

Respiratory risks associated with agriculture

Schenker, M., T. Ferguson and T. Gamsky

Occup Med. 1991. 6(3):415-428.

Although respiratory disease associated endeavors was reported by Chief Ramazzini in 1713 it has been only within the 20th century that careful clinical evaluation of respiratory disease among this working population was attempted. Large gaps still exist in our knowledge of the epidemiology of respiratory hazards in agriculture, particularly among populations such as migrant or seasonal workers. Farmers and other agricultural workers are exposed to a variety of natural and man-made toxic materials including dusts, noxious gases, microbial products and toxins (endotoxins, fungal proteins), and a variety of chemicals such as pesticides and fertilizers. In addition, farmers may be involved in processes during agricultural operations that generate potential respiratory toxins such as diesel exhaust, welding gases, hydrogen sulfide, and ammonia. Thus, exposures to potential respiratory toxins in a farm environment can be diverse and are not limited to sources associated with primary processes of cultivation or livestock confinement. The focus of this chapter is to review the respiratory health effects associated with agricultural work. In particular, we will focus on epidemiologic evidence of respiratory disease among agriculture workers and suggestions for further studies.

Keywords: Adult, Agricultural Workers' Diseases/classification/*epidemiology/etiology, Child, Family, Human, Prevalence, Respiratory Tract Diseases/classification/*epidemiology/etiology, Risk Factors

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