Wheezing? You work in a barn, says vet school

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Nov 20, 2009
By dvm360.com staff
North Grafton, Mass. -- Results of a survey out of Tufts University's Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine has uncovered some dirt about barn workers: namely, that organic and inorganic dust in the barn may be leading to respiratory problems in the more than 4.6 million Americans involved in the equine industry.

In a study of 80 New England horse barn workers, 50 percent reported coughing, wheezing or other ailments in the past year. That's compared to just 15 percent from a control group of 74 people. More exposure to barn work also increased the rate of self-reported respiratory symptoms.

"It has long been known that lower respiratory illness is common in horses, and this is typically attributed to the amount of dust in barns," says lead study author Melissa Mazan, DVM, associate professor at Tufts.

"Our hope was to see whether this poor air quality affects horse owners, and it appears that it might," she says.

Respiratory distress may be as common among pig, dairy and chicken farmers, says Mazan. A 2001 study of European animal farmers found similar results.