Systematic review of respiratory health among dairy workers

Stephen J Reynolds, Matthew W Nonnenmann, Ioannis Basinas, Margaret Davidson, Lena Elfman, John Gordon, Shelley Kirychuck, Sue Reed, Joshua W Schaeffer, Marc B Schenker, Vivi Schlünssen, Torben Sigsgaard

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The dairy industry is changing on a global scale with larger, more efficient operations. The impact of this change on worker health and safety, specifically, associations between occupational lung disease and inhalation exposures, has yet to be reported in a comprehensive review of the scientific literature. Therefore, a three-tier process was used to identify information using a keyword search of online databases of scientific literature. Of the 147 citations reviewed, 52 met initial screening criteria, and 30 were included in this review. Dairy workers experience lung conditions such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, hypersensitivity pneumonitis, chronic bronchitis, and cancer. Recent pulmonary function studies have identified obstructive lung changes among dairy farm workers. The increased scale of dairy production with significant changes in technology and work practices has altered inhalation exposure patterns among dairy workers. The inhalation exposure in the dairy work environment may elicit differing inflammatory responses in relation to timing of initial exposure as well as to repeated exposures. Few studies have measured inhalation exposure while simultaneously assessing the impact of the exposure on lung function of dairy farm workers. Even fewer studies have been implemented to assess the impact of aerosol control technology to reduce inhalation exposure. Future research should evaluate worker exposure to aerosols through a task-based approach while utilizing novel methods to assess inhalation exposure and associated inflammatory responses. Finally, potential solutions should be developed and tested to reduce inhalation exposure to inflammatory agents and respiratory diseases in the dairy farm work environment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)219-43
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of agromedicine
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • Aerosols
  • Air Pollutants, Occupational/adverse effects
  • Asthma/epidemiology
  • Bronchitis, Chronic/epidemiology
  • Dairying
  • Humans
  • Inhalation Exposure
  • Occupational Diseases/epidemiology
  • Occupational Exposure
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive/epidemiology
  • Respiratory Tract Diseases/epidemiology


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