RESEARCH PAPER
Exposure to airborne microorganisms, dust and endotoxin during flax scutchingon farms.
 
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Department of Occupational Biohazards, Institute of Agricultural Medicine, Lublin, Poland
CORRESPONDING AUTHOR
Ewa Krysińska-Traczyk   

Department of Occupational Biohazards, Institute of Agricultural Medicine, Jaczewskiego2, 20-090 Lublin, Poland
 
Ann Agric Environ Med. 2004;11(2):309–317
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ABSTRACT
Microbiological air sampling was performed on 5 flax farms located in eastern Poland. Air samples for determination of the concentrations of microorganisms, dust and endotoxin were collected in barns during machine scutching of flax stems by the farmers. The concentrations of mesophilic bacteria ranged from 203.5-698.8 x 103 cfu/m3, of Gram-negative bacteria from 27.2-123.4 x 103 cfu/m3,of thermophilic actinomycetes from 0.5-2.6 x 103 cfu/m3, and of fungi from 23.4-99.8 x 103 cfu/m3.The concentrations of total airborne microorganisms (bacteria + fungi) were within a range of 245.0-741.0x 103 cfu/m3. The values of the respirable fraction of total airborne microflora on the examined farmswere between 45.5-98.3%. Corynebacteria (irregular Gram-positive rods, mostly Corynebacterium spp.) weredominant at all sampling sites, forming 46.8-67.8% of the total airborne microflora. Among Gram-negativebacteria, the most numerous species was Pantoea agglomerans (synonyms: Erwinia herbicola, Entero bacteragglomerans), known to have strong endotoxic and allergenic properties. Among fungi, the allergenic species Alternaria alternata prevailed. Altogether, 25 species or genera of bacteria and 10 species or genera of fungi were identified in the farm air during flax scutching; of these, 11 and 6 species or genera respectively were reported as having allergenic and/or immunotoxic properties. The concentrations of airborne dust ranged within 43.7-648.1 mg/m3 (median 93.6 mg/m3), exceeding on all farms the Polish OEL value of 4 mg/m3. The concentrations of airborne endotoxin ranged within 16.9-172.1 microg/m3 (median30.0 microg/m3), exceeding at all sampling sites the suggested OEL value of 0.2 microg/m). In conclusion, flax farmers performing machine scutching of flax could be exposed to large concentrations of airborne microorganisms, dust and endotoxin, posing a risk of work-related respiratory disease.
eISSN:1898-2263
ISSN:1232-1966