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Health hazard evaluation report: HETA-2008-0052-3115, skin and respiratory symptoms in peanut inspectors with peanut dust and endotoxin exposure, Shann Peanut Company, Ambrose, Georgia.

Tapp-LC; Sylvain-D
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, HETA 2008-0052-3115, 2010 Sep; :1-30
On November 30, 2007, the GDPH submitted a request for technical assistance to NIOSH to address concerns about health symptoms in FSIS peanut inspectors who worked in the peanut grading room at Shann Peanut Company (Shann) in Ambrose, Georgia. FSIS employees began reporting irritation of the eyes, nose, respiratory tract, and skin; nausea; diarrhea; vomiting; headache; fever; and flu-like symptoms in middle to late October 2007. Prior to our evaluation, FDA and USDA analyzed peanut samples for fungi, mycotoxins, and pesticides. GDPH officials conducted an epidemiologic assessment. On December 5, 2007, we met with FSIS inspectors, GDPH officials, a USDA official, and the facility owner and walked around the peanut grading facility. We assessed ventilation in the grading room, examined the PPE provided to employees, and collected a sample of dust from the air conditioner filter in the grading room. We spoke with FSIS employees about their health concerns and reviewed their medical records. We later analyzed peanuts sent to us for endotoxin and VOCs. On October 22, 2008, we returned to Shann and conducted PBZ air sampling for endotoxin in the grading room. In 2007, we found that the grading room machinery did not vent peanut dust outdoors. FSIS inspectors reported wearing dust masks that were not NIOSH approved; they also reported skin, gastrointestinal, respiratory, and flu-like symptoms. Employee medical records reported respiratory abnormalities in seven employees. Endotoxin were found on the air conditioner filter and in peanut samples. During the 2008 site visit, endotoxin were found in the grading room air and outdoor air. The acute respiratory and flu-like symptoms reported by FSIS employees were consistent with endotoxin exposure. The acute gastrointestinal and skin symptoms reported were consistent with exposure to chemical toxins, possibly mycotoxins. The persistence of symptoms in some workers after being removed from exposure was unusual. Persistent respiratory symptoms could be a result of additional lung insult from cigarette smoking or co-existing disease, such as COPD or asthma. In addition, persistence of symptoms might be explained by employees inadvertently taking home organic dust on their clothing and shoes and in their cars, thus continuing their exposure. We recommend reducing dust in the peanut grading room by installing ductwork on machines to discharge dust outdoors. We recommend providing employee training on the hazards of organic dust and ways to prevent exposure, providing appropriate respiratory and skin protection to reduce exposure to irritants and allergens, and encouraging employees to report potential work-related symptoms. FSIS management also should review injury and illness logs and conduct additional endotoxin sampling in FSIS peanut grading rooms throughout the state to monitor trends in work-related illness and exposures.
Skin-diseases; Skin-disorders; Skin-irritants; Respiratory-irritants; Respiratory-system-disorders; Pulmonary-system-disorders; Endotoxins; Respirable-dust; Eye-irritants; Gastrointestinal-system-disorders; Microorganisms; Fungi; Pesticides; Pesticides-and-agricultural-chemicals; Insecticides; Dusts; Food-handlers; Food-processing; Food-processing-workers; Ventilation; Personal-protection; Personal-protective-equipment; Protective-equipment; Respiratory-protective-equipment; Respiratory-protection; Organic-dusts; Author Keywords: Other Farm Product Material Merchant Wholesalers; peanuts; organic dust; endotoxin; skin; respiratory symptoms; gastrointestinal symptoms
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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