Background: Occupational exposure to animal production is associated with chronic bronchitis symptoms; however, few studies consider associations with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). We estimated associations between animal production activities and prevalence of self-reported COPD among farmers in the Agricultural Health Study.
Methods: During a 2005-2010 interview, farmers self-reported information about: their operations (i.e., size, type, number of animals, insecticide use), respiratory symptoms, and COPD diagnoses (i.e., COPD, chronic bronchitis, emphysema). Operations were classified as small or medium/large based on regulatory definitions. Farmers were classified as having a COPD diagnosis, chronic bronchitis symptoms (cough and phlegm for ≥3 months during 2 consecutive years), or both. Polytomous logistic regression was used to estimate odds ratios (OR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI).
Results: Of 22,491 participating farmers (median age: 59 years), 922 (4%) reported a COPD diagnosis only, 254 (1%) reported a diagnosis and symptoms, and 962 (4%) reported symptoms only. Compared to raising no commercial animals, raising animals on a medium/large operation was positively associated with chronic bronchitis symptoms with (OR: 1.59; 95% CI: 1.16, 2.18) and without a diagnosis (OR: 1.69; 95% CI: 1.42, 2.01). Ever use of multiple organophosphates, carbaryl, lindane, and permethrin were positively associated with chronic bronchitis symptoms.
Conclusion: Animal production work, including insecticide use, was positively associated with chronic bronchitis symptoms; but not consistently with COPD diagnosis alone. Our results support the need for further investigation into the role of animal production-related exposures in the etiology of COPD and better respiratory protection for agricultural workers.
Keywords: Environmental health; Epidemiology; Occupational health; Pesticide.
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