This study was part of an environmental and cross-sectional epidemiological investigation of respiratory disease in the turkey industry. Epidemiology results are reported elsewhere. The goals of the environmental study were to: 1) characterize human exposure to airborne agents in turkey confinement barns during winter and summer; and 2) evaluate the environmental factors affecting the airborne concentrations of hazardous agents. General area samples for total and respirable dust, total and respirable endotoxin, ammonia, sulfur dioxide, cul- turable bacteria (on blood agar), and culturable Gramnegative bacteria (on MacConkey’s agar) were collected in each barn over the work shift on 5 days during each season. Personal breathing zone samples were collected for respirable dust, respirable endotoxin, and ammonia at the same time for persons working in the buildings. Airborne concentrations of environmental agents were highest during the winter. For most samples, airborne concentrations were highest in the hen barn and lowest in the brooder barn. Levels of culturable Gram-negative bacteria were greatest in the brooder barn. Airborne concentrations of total dust, ammonia, endotoxin, and bacteria exceeded suggested health guidelines for a significant portion of the winter in the hen and tom barns. Total dust and ammonia concentrations correlated with airborne concentrations of other contaminants, and might serve as surrogate measures for agents that are more difficult to evaluate. The concentrations of contaminants depended on season, ventilation rate, and tilling activities. Efforts to control exposure should focus on improved engineering and modification of work practices; however, respiratory protection should be used during tasks that generate high levels of dust and ammonia.
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