RR540 - The HSE grain dust study - workers'
exposure to grain dust contaminants,
immunological and clinical response
Inhalation of airborne micro-organisms and their associated contaminants in the workplace can cause a range of
immunological and respiratory symptoms. The mechanisms through which these respiratory effects are caused are not
all fully understood. The evaluation of worker exposure is essential for establishing causal relationships between
occupational disease and one or several specific micro-organisms or their associated contaminants.
This study investigated the role of micro-organisms and their associated contaminants in the development of
immunological and clinical response in workers exposed to grain dust. The objectives were:
- To assess the exposure of grain workers in the UK to inhalable grain dust, the microbial contaminants in grain dust,
including identification of the predominant micro-organisms involved, and to endotoxin (bacterial cell wall toxins).
- To measure the prevalence of immunological response to grain dust associated allergens in UK grain workers.
- To examine the long term clinical and immunological effects of workplace exposure to grain dust and its
contaminants in terms of its effect on respiratory health. This was done by establishing a cohort of 321 workers
exposed to grain dust (farmers at 27 farms and dock workers at 2 docks in South East England) and maintaining
as many as possible in the cohort for repeated immunoassay and clinical assessment over two study phases,
Phase 1 from 1990 to 1993 and Phase 2 from 1997 to 2003.
This report and the work it describes were funded by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Its contents, including any
opinions and/or conclusions expressed, are those of the authors alone and do not necessarily reflect HSE policy.
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