Dust and Farming

A couple of good articles on the problems of dust in the agricultural sector.

_______________________________

Dust particles in livestock facilities – Phys Org – University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign – https://phys.org/news/2017-07-particles-livestock-facilities.html

“A beam of sunlight streams into your living room, illuminating a Milky Way of dust particles hanging in the air. Although the air looks thick, those visible dust particles are so big that they can’t reach the smallest branches of the respiratory tree in your lungs. It’s the dust we can’t see—smaller than 2.5 microns, called PM 2.5—that can cause allergies and other respiratory problems.

Inside livestock facilities, the dust particles are much more abundant than in a living room, and can cause pulmonary problems for anyone who breathes the air, including the animals. A recent research project on air quality characterizes the dust particles found in different livestock facilities. For the study, the air was sampled for three consecutive days in each of three types of animal production facilities—poultry, dairy, and swine.

“If you’re going to regulate air quality, first you have to measure it. And before you measure it, you have to characterize how to measure it and what’s in it,” says Richard Gates, professor in the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering in the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences at University of Illinois and member of the research project team.

Gates says not all livestock facility dust is alike. “In order to manage or regulate the dust, we first have to understand its characteristics. Until we have that, we can’t make models that describe the emission from a building, how much of it drops out within 100 yards of a building, and how much of it travels much further from the facility.”

According to Gates, laying hen facilities are recognized as a very dusty environment; a dairy facility is a very open, airy environment with lots of fresh air; and a swine-finishing building, although not considered to be terribly dusty, is actually the worst overall in dust level, especially at the most dangerous particulate matter (PM) level.

“Of the three types of livestock buildings, swine facilities tip the scales in terms of having the highest amount of the dangerously small, PM 2.5 size particulate matter—significantly higher,” Gates says.

Anecdotally, Gates says a high percentage of people who work in livestock facilities, over time, develop respiratory issues. “They should be wearing protective masks at all times. On bigger farms it’s a requirement,” he says. “In the early days of raising livestock, masks weren’t available, and in developing countries, availability is still an issue. And pigs are affected, too. One of the major challenges in swine production is keeping them healthy without the use of antibiotics, and respiratory stress is one of the health issues.”

The lead researcher on the project, Ehab Mostafa, collected the data at livestock facilities in Germany, which are believed to be comparable in terms of dust to facilities in the United States, and conducted the first analysis. Mostafa also developed a sedimentation cylinder to measure the particulate matter. Air is blown into the top of the cylinder. Then a particle counter inside measures the density and weight-per-surface area of the particulates as they fall to the bottom.

“Interestingly, the particles are not all spherical,” Gates says. “Without scientific ways to characterize their shapes, then every model that we use to predict how many there are and how to measure them and their fate are wrong – because the models have been assuming spherical particles. We’ve known that they couldn’t all be perfectly round, but this study demonstrates you can use these derived values and improve predictions for more accurate models by accounting for differences in properties at different sizes and types of particulate matter.”

Gates says this research is a rigorous scientific approach to characterizing these particles. The information will be used as input for models to discover the fate of the dust as it leaves the building and its effect on the external environment.

“There are important outcomes from this research,” Gates says. “One is to characterize what’s going on in these three types of facilities. Then, with that information, we can compare it to what we already have for health standards for humans and animals. For example OSHA has an 8-hour exposure limit for PM 2.5.”

The study, “Physical properties of particulate matter from animal houses—empirical studies to improve emission modelling,” is published in Environmental Science and Pollution Research.”
More information: Ehab Mostafa et al. Physical properties of particulate matter from animal houses—empirical studies to improve emission modelling, Environmental Science and Pollution Research (2016). DOI: 10.1007/s11356-016-6424-8
Journal reference: Environmental Science and Pollution Research

Provided by: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Dust and Farming

Health Hazards In Agriculture – An Emerging Issue  – National Ag Safety Database – By Bradley K Rein – http://nasdonline.org/1246/d001050/health-hazards-in-agriculture-an-emerging-issue.html

“Perhaps more than any other occupational group, agricultural workers are exposed to a tremendous variety of environmental hazards that are potentially harmful to their health and well-being. Farmers and farm workers suffer from increased rates of respiratory diseases, noise-induced hearing loss, skin disorders, certain cancers, chemical toxicity, and heat-related illnesses. There are precautions that can be taken to minimize or eliminate these potential hazards.

RESPIRATORY HAZARDS

Farming situations present several respiratory hazards to farm workers. Exposure to these hazards has been linked to excessive coughing and congestion in 20 to 90 percent of farm workers and families. Symptoms of chronic bronchitis were observed in as many as 50 percent of swine confinement workers and grain handlers.
Organic Dust Toxic Syndrome (ODTS) is a common respiratory illness manifested by temporary influenza-like illness with fever, headache, and muscle aches and pains. Although much less common than ODTS, Farmer’s Lung is an allergic reaction caused by inhaling dust from moldy hay, straw, and grain. Dairy and grain farmers are the most common victims. The months when moldy crops are handled indoors are the most dangerous. For those who are susceptible, repeated exposure damages lung tissue, ca sing shortness of breath and a growing inability to perform strenuous work. Victims eventually may find it a struggle even to get out of a chair.

Dust from moldy hay, grain, and silage can also cause ODTS, which has symptoms resembling Farmer’s Lung. However, ODTS does not produce long-term illness or cause permanent lung damage.

Nuisance dusts and gases also are hazards. Suspended dust particles not containing spores from moldy organic matter are considered nuisance dusts. Repeated exposure can turn portions of the lung into hardened, nonfunctioning tissue and cause chronic bronchitis and occupational asthma.

A variety of disabling gases, including nitrogen dioxide (NO2), hydrogen sulfide (H2S), ammonia (NH3), Carbon dioxide (CO2), and methane (CH4), are produced during many routine operations. Exposure to low levels of NO2, H2S, or NH3 will produce lung and eye irritations, dizziness, drowsiness, and headaches. High levels of H2S, particularly, and NO2, secondarily, will quickly render a worker unconscious and death will follow.

The best prevention of respiratory disease is to wear a respirator approved by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). Air-purifying respirators remove contaminants from the air, but can only be used in environments with enough oxygen to sustain life. Supplied-air respirators must be used in oxygen-limited environments, or in environments with acute toxic gas levels.

NOISE

Agricultural noise is another common health hazard on the farm. It is estimated that 10 percent of U.S. farm workers are exposed to average daily noise levels above 85 decibels, which is the “action” level at which hearing conservation program are required for industrial workers. Studies at the Universities of Missouri, Wisconsin, Nebraska, and Iowa found that noise-induced hearing loss has been found to affect a quarter of younger farmers, and at least 50 percent of older farmers. Significant numbers develop a communication handicap by age 30.
Prolonged exposure to excessive noise, such as that produced by tractors, combines, choppers, grain dryers, and chainsaws, can cause permanent hearing loss unless noise-control measures are taken. Ears provide two warning signs for overexposure: temporary threshold shift (TTF) and ringing in the ears (tinnitus). The two types of hearing protection available are ear muffs and ear plugs. Ear muffs are more effective, but the level of protection varies due to differences in size, shape, seal material, shell mass, and type of suspension. Ear plugs may be custom fined or preformed rubber, plastic, or foam inserts. Preformed inserts are cheaper, but ear plugs properly inserted into the ear and custom-fitted by trained personnel are more effective because the ear canal shape may vary.

If you are continually exposed to loud noises, you should have periodic hearing tests. This test, called an audiogram, will reveal signs of hearing loss. If a hearing loss is noted, take steps to reduce exposure, thereby eliminating further damage to your ears.”

Please follow the link above to read the full article.

_____________________________

Enjoy your day! Chris

Dust Monitoring Equipment – providing equipment, services and training in dust fallout management to the mining industry.

Comments are closed.