Original article

Scand J Work Environ Health 1985;11(4):287-293    pdf


Exposure to microorganisms, febrile and airway-obstructive symptoms, immune status and lung function of Swedish farmers.

by Malmberg P, Rask-Andersen A, Palmgren U, Hoglund S, Kolmodin-Hedman B, Stalenheim G

A questionnaire was sent to 512 farmers, members of a local farmer's health association. Eighty were interviewed, and their serum precipitins and total serum immunoglobulin E (IgE) values were determined. Forty-five underwent extensive pulmonary function tests. On the basis of the clinical evaluation it was estimated that 19% of the farmers had experienced febrile reactions (fever and/or shivering) following exposure to organic dust, 50% of the 19% having been exposed within the last 2.5 years. Common causes were moldy grain, hay, and woodchips. The pulmonary function, gas exchange, and chest radiographs of those who had previously had febrile reactions were normal. Only 13% showed positive precipitin reactions in Ouchterlony double-diffusion tests. With more sensitive tests, positive precipitins were found in 59%, but they were negatively correlated with febrile episodes. Air samples collected during work with hay and grain on 21 farms contained between 10(7) to 2 X 10(9) microorganisms/m3. The highest values were associated with symptoms of alveolitis. Eleven percent of the farmers reported obstructive chest symptoms following exposure to organic dust. This group showed decreased pulmonary function and elevated serum IgE levels and included a high proportion of smokers and exsmokers. No correlation was found between febrile and obstructive reactions.