Farm Dust Exposure

Wisconsin farmers find themselves exposed to a variety of dust. Breathing grain dust is a health concern for all in the grain industry.

Grain dust is a complex soup of particles, with the smallest dust particles easily inhaled and find their way deep into the respiratory system. Grain dust is biologically active made up of plant material, mold, insect parts, bacteria, endotoxins (toxins contained in the cell walls of some bacteria) and soil particles including silica. Most people will have some reaction to dusty harvest conditions. Often, this will be a nuisance reaction (like a runny nose) or throat irritation; however, in some cases, bigger health problems occur.

At low dust levels during prolonged and busy harvest operations, a cough is common and might be an intermittent cough, producing more phlegm when you’re working near dust. Other symptoms are chest tightness/wheezing, sore/irritated throat, nasal and eye irritation and feeling stuffed-up and congested.

Chronic and acute bronchitis is also common for those who handle grain. Bronchitis occurs as lung passages get inflamed. Grain dust can also be quite a debilitating concern for those with asthma.

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