Exposures and health effects from inorganic agricultural dusts

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98 Scopus citations

Abstract

Most studies of respiratory disease from dust exposure in the agricultural workplace have focused on allergic diseases caused by inorganic dusts, specifically occupational asthma and hypersensitivity pneumonitis. Exposures to inorganic (mineral) dusts among farmers and farm workers may be substantial. Such exposures are most frequent in dry-climate farming regions. In such locations farming activities that perturb the soil (e.g., plowing, tilling) commonly result in exposures to farm operators of 1-5 mg/m3 respirable dust and ≥ 20 mg/m3 total dust. The composition of inorganic dust in agriculture generally reflects the soil composition. Crystalline silica may represent up to 20% of particles, and silicates represent up to 80%. These very high concentrations of inorganic dust are likely to explain some of the increase in chronic bronchitis reported in many studies of farmers. Pulmonary fibrosis (mixed dust pneumoconiosis) has been reported in agricultural workers, and dust samples from the lungs in these cases reflect the composition of agricultural soils, strongly suggesting an etiologic role for inorganic agricultural dusts. However, the prevalence and clinical severity of these cases are unknown, and many exposures are to mixed organic and inorganic dusts. Epidemiologic studies of farmers in diverse geographic settings also have observed an increase in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease morbidity and mortality. It is plausible that agricultural exposure to inorganic dusts is causally associated with chronic bronchitis, interstitial fibrosis, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, but the independent contribution of mineral dusts beyond the effects of organic dusts remains to be determined.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)661-664
Number of pages4
JournalEnvironmental Health Perspectives
Volume108
Issue numberSUPPL. 4
StatePublished - 2000

Keywords

  • Agriculture
  • Chronic bronchitis
  • COPD
  • Dust
  • Mineral
  • Particles
  • Pulmonary fibrosis
  • Respiratory
  • Silica

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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