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Health hazard evaluation report: HETA-2007-0284 & 2007-0317-3155, evaluation of eye and respiratory symptoms at a poultry processing facility - Oklahoma.

Chen L; Eisenberg J; Durgam S; Mueller C
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 2007-0284 & 2007-0317-3155, 2012 Mar; :1-47
In July 2007, NIOSH received employer requests from a poultry processing facility and a government agency for an HHE in Oklahoma. These requests concerned eye and respiratory symptoms reported by poultry processing employees and government food inspectors. On October 16, 2007, we held an opening meeting with employer and union representatives, observed work process and practices, and interviewed employees privately. We found that eye and respiratory irritation were common among employees working in evisceration and paw harvest areas. On February 21-22, 2008, we returned to the facility to measure soluble chlorine and trichloramine levels in the evisceration area. The chloramine concentrations measured during this visit warranted further investigation of employees' symptoms and exposure to these compounds. On October 1-10, 2008, we returned to the facility. We asked government food inspectors and poultry processing employees who worked on lines using superchlorinated water (evisceration line, reprocessing, paw harvest, and gizzard harvest areas) and employees working in areas not using superchlorinated water (such as the IW, IQF, and WOG areas) to complete a survey about symptoms experienced at work in the previous month. These employees were designated as exposed and unexposed, respectively. Exposed participants also had eye exams and lung function (spirometry) testing before and after their work shift. We collected area air samples for soluble chlorine and trichloramine in seven locations throughout evisceration, reprocessing, gizzard harvest, paw harvest, and two locations in the WOG and IQF areas. We collected PBZ air samples from exposed participants. Area air samples for chlorine and chlorine dioxide were taken, and we reviewed the company's chlorine concentration records for the water used in reprocessing, evisceration, bird wash, and paw harvest areas. We visually inspected the ventilation system and used smoke to observe air movement throughout the evisceration area. Exposed participants were more likely to report certain work-related symptoms in the previous month than unexposed participants. These symptoms included chest tightness, sneezing, dry eyes, blurry vision, and burning or itchy eyes. Of the 39 exposed participants, 2 had significant declines in their FEV1, a measure of a change in lung function, between the start and the end of their work shift. Some participants' tear film breakup times worsened over the shift, but most participants started their shift with an abnormal tear film breakup time. Overall, the results of the trichloramine and soluble chlorine air samples were low. We detected higher levels of soluble chlorine compounds in areas that used superchlorinated water compared to areas without superchlorinated water. Increased levels of exposures to air trichloramine and soluble chlorine were not related to increased symptom reports during their shift. All chlorine dioxide and all but one chlorine area air concentrations were very low and well below relevant OELs. Poultry processing facilities have many potential sources of irritants in addition to the compounds we evaluated, which made identifying the exact causes of employee symptoms difficult. Sampling for these compounds is complicated by the irritant chemicals' sporadic and unpredictable formation and release into the air. Irritant symptoms can be caused and exacerbated by a variety of factors, including exposure to a combination of chemical and biological compounds, poor water chemistry control, inadequate ventilation, and employee sensitivity to irritants. Establishing positive pressure ventilation, ensuring good air mixing, and maintaining proper water chemistry may help reduce employees' symptoms.
Region-6; Agricultural-industry; Agricultural-products; Poultry-industry; Poultry-workers; Poultry; Eye-irritants; Respiratory-irritants; Work-practices; Work-operations; Lung-function; Eye-examinations; Ventilation; Ventilation-systems; Humans; Author Keywords: Poultry Processing; chloramines; trichloramine; poultry processing; eye irritation; respiratory irritation; spirometry; eye examinations; fluorescein stain scoring
10025-85-1; 10049-04-4
Publication Date
Document Type
Field Studies; Hazard Evaluation and Technical Assistance
Fiscal Year
NTIS Accession No.
NTIS Price
Identifying No.
HETA-2007-0284-0317-3155; HETA-2007-0284-3155; HETA-2007-0317-3155; B04132012
NIOSH Division
SIC Code
Source Name
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
Page last reviewed: March 25, 2022
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division