Page 1 Health Hazard Evaluation Report 2009-0131-3171 Evaluation of Sensitization and Exposure to Flour Dust, Spices, and Other Ingredients Among Poultry Breading Workers Report No. 2009-0131-3171 April 2013 Elena H



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Page 1

Health Hazard Evaluation Report 2009-0131-3171



Evaluation of Sensitization and Exposure to 

Flour Dust, Spices, and Other Ingredients 

Among Poultry Breading Workers

Report No. 2009-0131-3171

April 2013

Elena H. Page, MD, MPH

Chad H. Dowell, MS, CIH

Charles A. Mueller, MS

Raymond E. Biagini, PhD

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health




Page 2

Health Hazard Evaluation Report 2009-0131-3171



Contents

Highlights ...............................................i

Abbreviations ..................................... iv

Introduction ......................................... 1

Background .......................................... 1

Methods ............................................... 2

Results .................................................. 3

Discussion .......................................... 17

Conclusions ........................................ 19

Recommendations............................. 19

Appendix A ........................................ 22

Appendix B ......................................... 25

Appendix C ......................................... 28

References .......................................... 31

Acknowledgements ........................... 35

The employer is required to post a copy of this report for 30 days at or near the 

workplace(s) of affected employees. The employer must take steps to ensure 

that the posted report is not altered, defaced, or covered by other material.




Page i

Health Hazard Evaluation Report 2009-0131-3171

We evaluated exposures 

to breading dust (which 

contains flour, spices, and 

other ingredients) at a poultry 

breading plant. Employees 

reported asthma, bronchitis, and 

nasal symptoms. We found that 

employees were overexposed 

to flour dust and other breading 

ingredients due to a lack of 

ventilation and poor work 

practices. Because of these high 

exposures some employees were 

sensitized to flour dust, wheat, 

spices, and other ingredients. 

We also found employees with 

work-related asthma symptoms, 

cough, and rhinoconjunctivitis 

symptoms. We recommend that 

employees wear respirators until 

engineering controls and work 

practices can reduce exposures. 

We also recommend that the 

plant start a medical surveillance 

program. 

Highlights of this Evaluation

The Health Hazard Evaluation Program received a request from the United Food and 

Commercial Workers union. Union officials were concerned that employees at a poultry 

breading plant in Georgia were experiencing asthma, bronchitis, and nasal symptoms from 

exposure to breading dust, which consists of flour, spices, and other ingredients. 

What We Did

 

● We evaluated the plant in June 2009. We returned in March 2010. 

 

● We looked at work processes, practices, and conditions.

 

● We took air samples for inhalable flour dust, 

wheat, and soy. 

 

● We considered employees as “lower-

exposure” or “higher-exposure” on the basis 

of their current job.

 

● We tested employees’ blood to see if they were 

allergic to flour dust, wheat, garlic, onion, 

soybean, corn, or paprika. All of these items are 

used in the plant. We also tested employees for 

common allergens like grass and pollen.

 

● We surveyed employees about their job 

and their health. We asked them if they had 

symptoms of cough, asthma, or allergies. 



What We Found

 

● The median concentration of inhalable flour dust 

in air was 8.21 milligrams per cubic meter in the 

higher-exposure group. It was 1.03 milligrams 

per cubic meter in the lower-exposure group.

 

● Most inhalable flour dust exposures 

were above the recommended value of 

0.5 milligrams per cubic meter for flour 

dust. This value was set by the American 

Conference of Governmental Industrial 

Hygienists.

 

● Employees in the higher-exposure group were 

more likely than those in the lower-exposure group to report several work-related 

symptoms in the last 12 months. These included wheezing or whistling in the chest, 

problems with sneezing or a runny nose or a blocked nose without a cold, and problems 

with sneezing or a runny nose or a blocked nose without a cold accompanied by itchy, 

watery eyes.



Page ii

Health Hazard Evaluation Report 2009-0131-3171



What We Found (continued) 

 

● Employees in the higher-exposure group were more likely than those in the lower-

exposure group to be sensitized to flour dust and wheat. 

 

● Employees who were sensitized to flour dust, wheat, corn, or onion were more likely to 

report work-related asthma symptoms than those who did not have these allergies. 

 

● Work-related episodes of coughing were common among employees, regardless 

of sensitization.

  

What the Employer Can Do

 

● Use an enclosed system to transfer powdered ingredients to the dispensing hoppers. 

 

● Use local exhaust ventilation to lower flour dust levels. 

 

● Start a respiratory protection program. Respiratory protection should be used until 

engineering controls and work practices can reduce exposures. Exposures should be 

below the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists Threshold 

Limit Value for flour dust.

 

● Hire a physician to evaluate employees for respiratory symptoms before they begin 

work at the facility. These evaluations should be repeated periodically after that.  



What Employees Can Do

 

● Wear the respirators provided by the company properly.

 

● Report any health problems that may be related to work to your supervisor or plant 

nurse so you can be referred for a medical evaluation.





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