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A prospective evaluation of air quality and workers' health in broiler and layer operations
  1. Ambikaipakan Senthilselvan1,
  2. Jeremy Beach2,
  3. John Feddes3,
  4. Nicola Cherry3,
  5. Irene Wenger4
  1. 1Department of Public Health Sciences, School of Public Health, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
  2. 2Department of Agricultural, Food and Nutritional Science, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
  3. 3Division of Community and Occupational Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
  4. 4Wenger & Ouellette Solutions, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
  1. Correspondence to Dr Ambikaipakan Senthilselvan, Department of Public Health Sciences, School of Public Health, 350C University Terrace, Edmonton, Alberta T6G 2T4, Canada;sentil{at}


Objectives In developed countries, poultry are raised in totally confined buildings in which workers are exposed to indoor airborne contaminants. A prospective study was conducted to investigate the relationship between workers' respiratory health and airborne contaminants during the life cycle of broiler and layer flocks.

Methods Seventeen layer and 16 broiler operations were chosen within a 200 km radius of Edmonton. An attempt was made to visit each broiler operation twice during the winter and summer seasons in the early and later periods of the 6-week production cycle and visit each layer operation three times during the early, middle and later periods of the 40-week production cycle.

Results In broiler operations, respirable particle counts, total dust and endotoxin concentrations, and ammonia levels increased with flock age, while mean endotoxin load (EU/mg) decreased in the winter and summer seasons. Increases in dust and endotoxin concentrations in the winter season were not statistically significance. Mean endotoxin concentration increased and mean dust concentration and ammonia level decreased with flock age in layer operations, although not all these changes were statistically significant. Mean across-shift decrements in FEV1 and FVC increased with flock age among workers from layer operations. Endotoxin concentration was significantly associated with across-shift changes in FEV1 among workers in layer operations.

Conclusion In our study, changes in lung function appear more closely associated with changes in endotoxin than other contaminants. Changes in indoor environmental conditions occurring in poultry barns which are dependent on the flock age may affect workers' health in poultry operations.

  • Dust
  • endotoxin
  • flock age
  • lung function
  • poultry operation
  • workers
  • epidemiology
  • respiratory
  • animal workers
  • organic dusts

Statistics from


  • Funding This study was supported by a grant from the Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research, Suite 1500, 10104 - 103 Avenue, Edmonton, Alberta T5J 4A7, Canada (grant no. MOP-57907).

  • Competing interests None.

  • Ethics approval This study was conducted with the approval of the University of Alberta Health Research Ethics Board

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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