Grain elevator workers are at risk for having respiratory symptoms and airway obstruction. Concern has been raised recently regarding health effects from dust levels near cattle feedlots. Subjects were recruited at Nebraska cattle feedlots and grain elevators/ feed mills. Pre- and post-exposure spirometry was performed. Dust levels were measured during the work shift using IOM inhalable samplers. Endotoxin values in dust sample extracts were determined using a Recombinant Factor C assay along with GC/MS. A total of 33 feedlot workers and 48 grain elevator/feedmill workers were enrolled in the study (78 men, 3 women) in the summer of 2006. There was no significant difference between mean total dust exposure for feedlot workers (2.36 mg/m3, 95% CI 1.36-4.01) and for grain elevator/feed mill workers (3.46 mg/m3, 95% CI 2.03-5.89). Mean endotoxin concentration for feedlot workers was 448 EU/ m3 (95% CI 142-1420) and for grain elevator/feed mill workers was 226 EU/ m3 (95% CI 79-899), with no significant difference between groups. There was an association between pre-work shift FEF25-75 (p = .034) and total dust levels but not endotoxin levels. No association was found between total dust levels or endotoxin and other lung function test measures, including cross-shift lung drop in FVC, FEV1 or FEV1/FVC. Airway obstruction defined by GOLD criteria was noted in 12% of feedlot workers and 8% of grain elevator/feed mill workers (p = .71). In conclusion, dust and endotoxin exposure in cattle feedlots was not significantly different from that in grain elevators/feed mills, a setting where airway obstruction from occupational exposure occurs. Cattle feedlot workers may also be at risk for developing occupational airways disease.
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