Swine production has been associated with health risks and workers' symptoms. In Portugal, as in other countries, large-scale swine production involves several activities in the swine environment that require direct intervention, increasing workers' exposure to organic dust. This study describes an updated protocol for the assessment of occupational exposure to organic dust, to unveil an accurate scenario regarding occupational and environmental risks for workers' health. The particle size distribution was characterized regarding mass concentration in five different size ranges (PM0.5, PM1, PM2.5, PM5, PM10). Bioburden was assessed, by both active and passive sampling methods, in air, on surfaces, floor covering and feed samples, and analyzed through culture based-methods and qPCR. Smaller size range particles exhibited the highest counts, with indoor particles showing higher particle counts and mass concentration than outdoor particles. The limit values suggested for total bacteria load were surpassed in 35.7% (10 out of 28) of samples and for fungi in 65.5% (19 out of 29) of samples. Among Aspergillus genera, section Circumdati was the most prevalent (55%) on malt extract agar (MEA) and Versicolores the most identified (50%) on dichloran glycerol (DG18). The results document a wide characterization of occupational exposure to organic dust on swine farms, being useful for policies and stakeholders to act to improve workers' safety. The methods of sampling and analysis employed were the most suitable considering the purpose of the study and should be adopted as a protocol to be followed in future exposure assessments in this occupational environment.
- Journal Article