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Canadian Respiratory Journal
Volume 10 (2003), Issue 7, Pages 375-380
Original Article

Respiratory Symptoms and Lung Function in Poultry Confinement Workers in Western Canada

Shelley P Kirychuk,1 Ambikaipakan Senthilselvan,2 James A Dosman,1 Victor Juorio,1 John JR Feddes,3 Philip Willson,4 Henry Classen,5 Stephen J Reynolds,6 Wilhelm Guenter,7 and Thomas S Hurst8

1Institute of Agricultural Rural and Environmental Health, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada
2Department of Public Health Sciences, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
3Department of Agricultural, Food and Nutritional Science, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
4Veterinary Infectious Disease Organization, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada
5Department of Animal and Poultry Science, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada
6Department of Environmental and Radiological Health Sciences, Colorado State University, Fort Collin, Colorado, USA
7Department of Animal Sciences, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
8Division of Respiratory Medicine, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada

Copyright © 2003 Hindawi Publishing Corporation. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


OBJECTIVE: To determine whether poultry production methods impact respiratory health, and whether poultry farmers have more respiratory symptoms and lower lung function than comparison control groups.

DESIGN: Cross-sectional study.

SETTING: Provinces of Saskatchewan, Alberta and Manitoba during the winters of 1997 to 1999. POPULATION: Three hundred three poultry workers, 241 grain farmers and 206 nonfarming control subjects were studied. Poultry workers were further classified according to the poultry housing type in which they worked, ie, workers who worked with poultry raised on the floor (floor-based operations), which included broiler/roaster, broiler/breeder and turkey operations (n=181), and workers who worked with poultry raised in a caged setting (cage-based operations), which included egg operations (n=122).

INTERVENTIONS: Subjects completed a respiratory health questionnaire, which included questions on the poultry operation and work habits, and participated in lung function testing.

MAIN RESULTS: Overall, this study indicated that poultry workers report greater prevalences of current and chronic respiratory symptoms than control populations, and that the type of production method (cage-based versus floor-based) appears to influence the prevalence of respiratory symptoms and lung function values. Workers from cage-based operations report greater prevalences of current cough and wheeze, as well as lower mean values for forced expiratory volume in the first second (FEV1), forced expiratory flow at 25% to 75% of vital capacity (FEF25-75) and FEV1/FVC than workers from floor-based facilities. Workers from cage-based facilities also reported greater prevalences of current and chronic cough and phlegm, as well as significantly lower FEF25-75 and FEV1/FVC values than nonfarming control subjects. Furthermore, grain farmers had lower FVC and FEV1 values than nonfarmers.

CONCLUSIONS: The results suggest that the type of poultry production system (ie, floor- versus cage-based) appears to have an effect on the respiratory response of workers from these facilities. Further studies are required to understand the physiological mechanisms of respiratory dysfunction and the relationships concerning workplace exposure among poultry workers.