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Occupational Respiratory Diseases: The Farmer, His Lungs, and Mold

Little-Known Agricultural Health Hazards

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “agriculture ranks among the most hazardous industries. Farmers are at very high risk for fatal and nonfatal injuries; and farming is one of the few industries in which family members (who often share the work and live on the premises) are also at risk for fatal and nonfatal injuries.”

The CDC estimates that over 167 agricultural workers suffer farm-related injuries every day (60,995 annually). The more common ages for fatal injuries range between 16 and 19 with 23% resulting from machinery malfunction or misuse, 19% involving motor vehicles, and 16% due to drowning. These leading sources constitute 58% of farm-related youth fatalities. The majority of nonfatal injuries among all age groups, however, are classified as either a sprain or strain.

In addition, the National Agricultural Safety Database (NASD) reports that “farmers account for more than 30% of adults disabled by respiratory illness.” Interestingly, the NASD also found that “a large percentage of farmers are nonsmokers.” This begs the question: In an industry known for its fresh-air work environment, what could possibly account for chronic respiratory conditions?
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