Exposure to inhalable dust and endotoxin among Danish pig farmers affected by work tasks and stable characteristics

Ioannis Basinas, Vivi Schlünssen, Hisamitsu Takai, Dick Heederik, Øyvind Omland, Inge M Wouters, Torben Sigsgaard, Hans Kromhout

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


OBJECTIVE: To identify working tasks and stable characteristics that determine intensity and variability of personal exposure to dust and endotoxin among pig farmers.

METHODS: Three hundred fifty-four personal full-shift measurements were performed in 231 farmers employed in 53 Danish pig farms. Filters were gravimetrically analysed for inhalable dust and for endotoxin by the Limulus amebocyte lysate assay. Information on working tasks and stable characteristics were collected using self-reported activity diaries and walk-through surveys performed in conjunction with the measurements. Associations between log-transformed dust and endotoxin exposure and working tasks and stable characteristics were examined using linear mixed-effects analysis. In these models, worker and farm identity were treated as random effects and working tasks and stable characteristics as fixed effects. Both separate and combined models for tasks and stable characteristics were elaborated.

RESULTS: Inhalable dust concentrations ranged between 0.1 and 48 mg m(-3) and endotoxin concentrations varied between 9.2 and 370,000 EU m(-3). Field work activities played a dominant role on the exposure variability. Indoor working tasks with intense animal activity or handling of feed materials increased exposure concentrations, whereas engagement in field work was associated with lower exposure concentrations. High-pressure water cleaning increased endotoxin exposure but did not affect exposure to inhalable dust. Stable characteristics related to feeding practices and type of ventilation were determinants of exposure to inhalable dust. For endotoxin, the most important determinants were use of dry feed and slatted floor coverage. Feeding practices solely explained all between-farms variability in exposure to inhalable dust and endotoxin.

CONCLUSIONS: These findings suggest feeding systems, flooring and ventilation to be potential areas where improved methods can reduce exposure to dust and endotoxin among pig farmers. Further, they highlight particular tasks involving feeding and intense animal handling as sources of very high levels of exposure. The pig farming industry is encouraged to focus on exposure reduction. Use of respirators during performance of working tasks where levels of exposure are particularly high ought to be considered until adequate hygienic solutions have been established.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1005-19
Number of pages15
JournalThe Annals of occupational hygiene
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2013


  • Air Pollutants, Occupational/analysis
  • Animal Feed/adverse effects
  • Animal Husbandry/statistics & numerical data
  • Animals
  • Denmark/epidemiology
  • Dust/analysis
  • Endotoxins/analysis
  • Floors and Floorcoverings
  • Housing, Animal
  • Humans
  • Inhalation Exposure/analysis
  • Occupational Exposure/analysis
  • Swine
  • Ventilation


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