Posts Tagged ‘respiratory health’

AgrAbility focuses on respiratory health on farms

The respiratory health of farmers has been identified as one of the major health concerns facing the farming population.  Recent agrability surveys conducted by the Mid-Atlantic Agrability Project in New Jersey showed respiratory illnesses to be the 6th leading cause of disability and accounted for 5.2% of the total disabilities.  This compares to a survey on the Delmarva Peninsula in 2000 where respiratory illnesses accounted for 8% of all disabilities.  A study in Iowa showed the overall rate of respiratory illness among farmers to be 17% per year.  Chronic bronchitis and organic toxic dust syndrome (OTDS) were the most commonly reported conditions.

November is COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) Awareness Month and a great time to emphasize respiratory health on farms.  According to the American Lung Association (ALA) 24 million Americans have impaired lung function, which is commonly known as COPD which is the third leading cause of death in the United States.

COPD, also known as emphysema and chronic bronchitis is a lung disease characterized by an obstruction to airflow that interferes with normal breathing and over time makes it difficult to breath.  Although COPD is not curable, it is preventable and can be treated and managed effectively.  ALA encourages people at risk to consult a physician about a spirometry test in order to diagnose the disease and begin treatment.

Despite smoking less, farmers have increased rates of chronic bronchitis.  Components of agricultural dusts are sufficiently irritating to the airways of the lung to cause mucus overproduction leading to repeated coughs with phlegm.  The dust is also a factor in asthma and allergic problems (runny nose, irritated eyes) which may occur with entry to poultry and other confinement housing.  Toxic fumes can also be encountered by people working in manure storage areas associated with animal confinement facilities.  A wide range of morbidity and mortality findings suggests that respiratory hazards may represent the greatest health hazard to famers.

The following strategies are important in addressing COPD and other respiratory diseases:

  • Know the respiratory hazards on your farm

Common respiratory hazards on farms include but are not limited to dusts, mold spores, gases such as ammonia in poultry operations, silo and manure gases; pesticides and fumes from welding and hot work

  • Know the signs and symptoms of COPD

Symptoms include constant coughing, shortness of breath when doing everyday activities, producing a lot of sputum, wheezing and feeling like you can’t breathe or take a deep breath

  • Get help

Consult a physician about a spirometry test in order to diagnose the disease as early as possible and begin treatment

  • Practice prevention

Use ventilation and PPE to protect yourself from the identified respiratory hazards.  In general respirators should have two straps, fit the face tightly, be appropriate for the respiratory hazard and approved by NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health).  For the proper respirator contact a local safety equipment supplier.

Replace the respirator if it becomes difficult to breathe through, dirty or loses it shape.  Always follow the manufacturer’s instruction relative to replacement, maintenance and storage.

How important is your health?  If you want to continue to breathe freely and promote respiratory health, protect yourself from respiratory hazards.  Remember that farm safety adds value to your business and you are the primary benefactor!


Mid-Atlantic AgrAbility to host free Respiratory Health Webinar

Respiratory Health Webinar hosted by Mid-Atlantic AgrAbility


DATE:   February 15, 2012 at 2:00 – 3:00 p.m.

SPEAKER:  John May, M.D., with Bassett Hospital and New York Center for Agriculture Medicine and Health


The agricultural workplace has long been associated with respiratory diseases.  Respiratory disease is among the main chronic health conditions affecting farmers, agricultural workers, greenhouse and nursery workers, veterinarians, and grain handling workers.  While significant exposure leading to acute disease have decreased, it is estimated that there has been a significant increase in subacute and chronic respiratory diseases associated with agricultural confinement facilities.

Exposures to organic dusts, molds, bacteria, and gases such as from the fermentation of manure and silage will lead to respiratory illnesses, often with overlapping clinical signs and symptoms.  Other respiratory hazards include inorganic dusts, pesticides, and other agricultural chemicals.

Don’t miss this informative webinar to learn more about respiratory hazards, respiratory protection and supporting farmers with respiratory illnesses. 


Dr. May is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame and Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine.  His training in Internal Medicine and Pulmonary Disease was at the Mary Imogene Bassett Hospital in Cooperstown, NY and at the University of Colorado Medical Center. For most of the past 30 years,

he has practiced pulmonary medicine at Bassett Healthcare in Cooperstown, NY. Over this time he has worked increasingly on occupational health problems affecting people in agriculture. As Director of the New York Center for Agricultural Medicine and Health (NYCAMH), Dr. May leads one of nine regional centers for agricultural safety and health designated by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.   The Northeast Center has active projects in a number of northeastern and middle Atlantic states.  Through this work, Dr. May has acquired experience in a variety of approaches to public health intervention.  He also serves as director of the Bassett Research Institute.


Please visit and follow the link to learn more about the webinar and complete the webinar registration form which is located in the news section of the home page.  You may also go directly to and register for the event.  The Webinar is free. Registration is limited so please register as soon as possible.


The webinar will be conducted using Adobe Connect. High speed Internet is recommended.

If you have never attended an Adobe Connect meeting before:

Test your connection:

Get a quick overview:

Adobe, the Adobe logo, Acrobat and Adobe Connect are either registered trademarks or trademarks of Adobe Systems Incorporated in the United States and/or other countries.

Registrants will receive a link to the webinar by Feb. 10, 2012.