Background: The respiratory health effects of working in swine operations have been previously investigated mainly in male owner/operators with intermittent exposure to indoor air contaminants.
Objectives: To examine the respiratory health of male and female workers employed full time in large-scale intensive swine operations in Saskatchewan.
Design: A cross-sectional study of male and female swine workers employed full time and nonfarming control subjects.
Results: In total, 374 swine farmers (240 men and 134 women) and 411 nonfarming rural control subjects (184 men and 227 women) participated in the study. After controlling for age and smoking, male and female workers were significantly more likely to have chronic and usual cough, and chronic and usual phlegm in comparison to male and female nonfarming control subjects, respectively. The risks of these symptoms were greater in female workers (chronic cough: odds ratio [OR], 5.14; 95% confidence interval, 2.67 to 9.89; chronic phlegm: OR, 4.26; 95% confidence interval, 1.86 to 9.73) than in male workers (chronic cough: OR, 3.47; 95% confidence interval, 1.77 to 6.81; chronic phlegm: OR, 3.22; 95% confidence interval, 1.76 to 5.89). These increased risks were not observed for asthma and asthma-like symptoms in female workers. Male workers had an increased risk of shortness of breath in comparison to their nonfarming counter parts.
Conclusions: Swine workers had increased risk of chronic and usual bronchitis-like symptoms. Female workers in swine operations appear to have greater risk of these symptoms. Future surveillance programs should include both male and female workers.