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Healthy Lung Month & Agricultural Workers

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The month of October is known as Healthy Lung Month in an effort to promote lung health and protect our lungs from the many toxins, chemical, and environmental materials that invade our air. Unfortunately, many people who work in agricultural or farming jobs are exposed to different chemicals and toxins more frequently than the average person. Below, are some highlighted issues they these workers can face, and how to stay safe from them.

Pesticides, Soil Fumigants, and Dust

These are used often in the agricultural workplace as fumigants are used as a pest control method and are usually released into the air or injected into soil. Dust occurs frequently on farms, and “farm dust” is very common as well. 

Since you may be filling an airspace with toxic gas, there are some risks that workers face through skin contact, inhalation, and ingestion. Workers can experience mild or severe poisoning, as well as face long-term exposure to these toxins.

Symptoms can include: nausea, headache, stomach cramps, vomiting, difficulty breathing, lung sensitization, cancer, and other problems.

Early studies from the National Cancer Institute showed that people exposed to certain pesticides have an increased risk of developing some cancers, but more research is needed to confirm.

Suggestions to reduce these risks include:

Look for substitutes of hazardous materials

  • Use less hazardous materials
  • Use less spray/mist
  • Cabs enclosed on tractors used for spray equipment
  • Ventilation systems for storage facilities
  • Proper respirators, safety equipment, and training for employees
  • Have a plan in place for exposure control

Mold 

Molds are fungi that are naturally occurring and can be found both indoors and outdoors. Molds thrive growing in warm, damp, and humid conditions. They are known to be able to reproduce in harsh conditions, even when dry.

Farms are a location that is known to have high mold exposure. It is common to find mold both inside a storage facility, on a farm or growing on crops or moldy hay.

Although mold does not seem like a health issue, it affects everyone differently. Mold can lead to asthma symptoms, mold infections in the lungs, shortness of breath, respiratory tract symptoms, coughing, and wheezing.

Suggestions to reduce mold include:

Control indoor humidity levels in wet areas of your home

  • Clean any mold with commercial products
  • Fix water problems
  • Ventilate properly

Asbestos

Asbestos is a material that was used often in construction due to its ability to withstand high temperatures and remain durable and strong. It was used up until the mid to late 1980s and was used in many farms, factories, machinery, and other construction materials. Although regulations have been put on the use of asbestos, many of these older structures and equipment can still contain the carcinogen.

If asbestos is friable, it can be released airborne and inhaled or ingested by workers or people in that area. Asbestos fibers become lodged in the lining of important bodily organs like the lungs. This can lead to mesothelioma cancer developing. There is no safe level of exposure to asbestos and if one does not develop mesothelioma, there are still risks of developing asbestosis, lung diseases, or lung cancer.

Symptoms of mesothelioma usually take years to fully develop and include: fatigue, difficulty breathing and swallowing, fluid build-up in the lungs, and chest pain.

Suggestions to reduce asbestos exposure include:

Knowing where asbestos resides on your property or equipment

  • Making sure asbestos is properly installed and enclosed
  • Make sure encasings of asbestos aren’t worn down
  • Get your property’s asbestos levels checked
  • Contact a profession to remove any asbestos hazards
  • Never remove asbestos by yourself or without proper safety equipment

This October, make sure to take a moment out of your busy schedules to check in on your home, farm, factory, and ensure that both yourself and your workers are safe! Everyone deserves healthy lungs, and together, we can make sure the best outcomes happen.

This week’s Blog post is courtesy of Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance.

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