RESEARCH PAPER
EXPOSURE TO AIRBORNE MICROORGANISMS, DUST AND ENDOTOXIN DURING PROCESSING OF PEPPERMINT AND CHAMOMILE HERBS ON FARMS
 
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Department of Occupational Biohazards, Institute of Agricultural Medicine, Lublin, Poland
CORRESPONDING AUTHOR
Czesława Skórska   

Department of Occupational Biohazards, Institute of Agricultural Medicine, Lublin, Poland
 
Ann Agric Environ Med. 2005;12(2):281–288
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ABSTRACT
The aim of this study was to determine the levels of microorganisms, dust and endotoxin in the air during processing of peppermint (Mentha piperita) and chamomile (Matricaria recutita) by herb farmers, and to examine the species composition of airborne microflora. Air samples were collected on glass fibre filters by use of personal samplers on 13 farms owned by herb cultivating farmers, located in Lublin province (eastern Poland). The concentrations of total viable microorganisms (bacteria + fungi) in the farm air during processing of peppermint herb were large, within a range from 895.1-6,015.8 × 103 cfu/m3 (median 1,055.3 × 103 cfu/m3). During processing of chamomile herb they were much lower and varied within a range from 0.88-295.6 × 103 cfu/m3 (median 27.3 × 103 cfu/m3). Gram-negative bacteria distinctly prevailed during processing of peppermint leaves, forming 46.4-88.5% of the total airborne microflora. During processing of chamomile herb, Gram-negative bacteria were dominant at 3 out of 6 sampling sites forming 54.7-75.3% of total microflora, whereas at the remaining 3 sites the most common were fungi forming 46.2-99.9% of the total count. The species Pantoea agglomerans (synonyms: Erwinia herbicola, Enterobacter agglomerans), having strong allergenic and endotoxic properties, distinctly prevailed among Gram-negative isolates. Among fungi, the most common species was Alternaria alternata. The concentrations of airborne dust and endotoxin determined on the examined herb farms were large. The concentrations of airborne dust during peppermint and chamomile processing ranged from 86.7-958.9 mg/m3, and from 1.1-499.2 mg/m3, respectively (medians 552.3 mg/m3 and 12.3 mg/m3). The concentrations of airborne endotoxin determined during peppermint and chamomile processing were within a wide range 1.53-208.33 µg/m3 and 0.005-2604.19 µg/m3 respectively (medians 57.3 µg/m3 and 0.96 µg/m3). In conclusion, farmers cultivating peppermint are exposed during processing of this herb to large concentrations of airborne microorganisms, dust and endotoxin posing a risk of work-related respiratory disease. The exposure to bioaerosols during processing of chamomile is lower; nevertheless, peak values create a respiratory risk for exposed farmers.
eISSN:1898-2263
ISSN:1232-1966