Relationship of airborne endotoxin and bacteria levels in pig farms with the lung function and respiratory symptoms of farmers

Int Arch Occup Environ Health. 1991;62(8):595-601. doi: 10.1007/BF00381114.


Previous studies have demonstrated a high prevalence of respiratory and other symptoms and a decrement in lung function among pig farm workers, although the relationships with specific agents present in the work environment remain obscure. This study was therefore undertaken to investigate the relationship between symptoms, lung function and airborne endotoxin, ammonia and dust levels in piggeries. Information on symptoms, lung function, endotoxin, ammonia and dust levels was available for 183 pig farmers who worked in 136 farms. For 62 farms information was present on the levels of bacteria and gram-negative bacteria. For these 62 farms, endotoxin exposure measurements were taken in more than one stable. In general, no significant correlations were found between lung function and chronic respiratory symptoms, or dust and ammonia levels. The endotoxin concentration in stables was negatively related to most lung function variables, but only for the subgroup of 62 farmers was a statistically significant relationship found between endoxtoxin exposure and FEV1. A borderline statistically significant and negative relationship was found between the endotoxin concentration and the FVC. Symptoms experienced during or shortly after work showed odds ratios larger than one with the levels of bacteria, gram-negative bacteria and endotoxin, indicating a positive relationship. No consistency in the relationship between symptoms and dust levels was found. The results suggest that endotoxins and (gram-negative) bacteria probably play an important role in the development of symptoms and lung function changes among pig farmers.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Agricultural Workers' Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Agricultural Workers' Diseases / etiology
  • Air Pollutants / adverse effects*
  • Ammonia / adverse effects
  • Animals
  • Bacterial Toxins / adverse effects*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Dust / adverse effects
  • Gram-Negative Bacteria
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Netherlands / epidemiology
  • Odds Ratio
  • Prevalence
  • Regression Analysis
  • Respiration Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Respiration Disorders / etiology
  • Swine


  • Air Pollutants
  • Bacterial Toxins
  • Dust
  • Ammonia