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Walk through report: observations and recommendations for reducing exposure to chloramines at Bil-Mar Foods, Sara Lee, Inc., Storm Lake, Iowa.

Khan A; Willson RD; Earnest GS
Cincinnati, OH: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, EPHB 295-11a, 2003 Dec; :1-10
On November 11-12, 2003, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) conducted a site visit at the Bil-Mar Foods, Sara Lee, Inc., Storm Lake, Iowa turkey processing plant in response to a Health Hazard Evaluation (HHE) request received from the Occupational Safety and Health Bureau of the Iowa Division of Labor. This request for technical assistance concerned symptoms of respiratory irritation among evisceration workers, and noted the workers were concerned about psittacosis and chlorine exposure. Our recent visit follows the June 2002 NIOSH Health Hazard Evaluation (HHE Report #2002-0257-2916) conducted at this facility. The HHE report indicated that the suspected etiological agents for the respiratory problems and eye irritation were exposure to soluble chlorine compounds and trichloramine. The HHE report recommended that engineering controls be implemented. As we discussed, the purpose of our visit was to look at the processes and make preliminary recommendations related to controlling worker exposures to air contaminants. Approximately 17,000 turkeys are processed on each shift at this facility. Turkeys are initially unloaded by hand and hung by their feet on a shackle conveyor, after which they are electrically stunned and killed by a mechanical throat slitter. An employee in this area will manually slit throats if the machine fails. The turkeys then pass through a "bleed-out" room into a hot-water scald tank. The temperature of the water in these tanks is 138 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit (degrees F ), which allows for easier removal of the feathers due to the opening of the pores in the turkey's skin. Following the scald tank, the turkeys are mechanically de-feathered in the picking room. After the picking room, an employee in the pinning room inspects the birds for any remaining feathers, and removes them as necessary. Additionally, hock cutters remove the legs and feet from the body of the turkeys, which are then re-hung on the evisceration line. Activities which employees perform in the evisceration line area include removal of the turkeys' entrails, head, neck, and lungs, as well as trimming off defective parts of the birds. U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) inspection of the birds for visible contamination also occurs on the evisceration line. Substantial amounts of super-chlorinated water (through the addition of sodium hypochlorite) are used at a number of stations on the evisceration line for disinfection of the birds. These stations include a bird-scrubber located at the start of the line, reprocessing stations where birds with potential fecal contamination are sent, and the high-pressure inside/outside bird wash. An open trough running throughout the evisceration line area catches the used super-chlorinated water along with discarded or dropped turkey parts. At the end of the evisceration line, the turkeys are split into a hind (dark meat) and front (white meat) half, which are then dropped into tanks of super-chlorinated water, and chilled to temperatures of 32 to 36 degrees F through ammonia refrigeration.
Pulmonary-system-disorders; Respiratory-system-disorders; Poultry; Poultry-industry; Poultry-workers; Occupational-diseases; Occupational-exposure; Chlorine-compounds; Air-contamination; Ammonium-compounds; Food-handlers; Food-processing-industry; Food-processing-workers; Region-7; Control-technology; Eye-irritants
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Division of Applied Research and Technology, 4676 Columbia Parkway, Mailstop R-5, Cincinnati, OH 45226
10025-85-1; 10599-90-3; 7790-92-3; 7681-52-9
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Field Studies; Control Technology
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National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
Page last reviewed: September 2, 2020
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division