Study objectives: Acute exposure to the air in swine confinement units causes bronchial hyperresponsiveness and inflammation of the airways. This study was performed to assess the longitudinal development of bronchial responsiveness in pig farmers and to establish exposure-response relationships.
Methods: A cohort of 171 pig farmers was followed over a 3-year period. Bronchial responsiveness was assessed by a histamine provocation test. Long-term average exposure to inhalable dust and endotoxin was determined by personal monitoring in summer and winter, using data on farm characteristics and activities. Time-weighted average (TWA) personal exposure to ammonia was measured. Data on farm characteristics were gathered in the same period.
Results: Mean increase in responsiveness was 2.52 doubling concentrations of histamine for a 10% decrease in FEV(1) and 1.36 doubling concentrations for a 20% decrease in FEV(1). Long-term average exposure to dust was 2.63 mg/m(3) and to endotoxin was 105 ng/m(3). TWA exposure to ammonia was 1.60 mg/m(3). After adjusting for age and smoking behavior, long-term average exposure to inhalable dust was associated with increases in bronchial responsiveness expressed as steps for provocative concentration causing 10% fall in FEV(1). TWA exposure to ammonia, use of wood shavings as bedding, and automated dry feeding were associated with increases in responsiveness expressed as steps for provocative concentration causing a 20% fall in FEV(1).
Conclusions: Exposure to dust and ammonia in pig farms contributes to chronic inflammation of the airways and should be reduced.