Mitchell, Diane; Arteaga, Veronica; Armitage, Tracey; Mitloehner, Frank; Tancredi, Daniel; Kenyon, Nicholas; Schenker, Marc
The objective of this study was to compare respiratory health of poultry workers in conventional cage, enriched cage and aviary layer housing on a single commercial facility, motivated by changing requirements for humane housing of hens. Three workers were randomly assigned daily, one to each of conventional cage, enriched cage, and aviary housing in a crossover repeated-measures design for three observation periods (for a total of 123 worker-days, eight different workers). Workers' exposure to particles were assessed (Arteaga et al. J Agromedicine. 2015;20:this issue) and spirometry, exhaled nitric oxide, respiratory symptoms, and questionnaires were conducted pre- and post-shift. Personal exposures to particles and endotoxin were significantly higher in the aviary than the other housings (Arteaga et al., 2015). The use of respiratory protection was high; the median usage was 70% of the shift. Mixed-effects multivariate regression models of respiratory cross-shift changes were marginally significant, but the aviary system consistently posted the highest decrements for forced expiratory volume in 1 and 6 seconds (FEV1 and FEV6) compared with the enriched or conventional housing. The adjusted mean difference in FEV1 aviary - enriched cage housing was -47 mL/s, 95% confidence interval (CI): (-99 to 4.9), P = .07. Similarly, for FEV6, aviary - conventional housing adjusted mean difference was -52.9 mL/6 s, 95% CI: (-108 to 2.4), P = .06. Workers adopting greater than median use of respiratory protection were less likely to exhibit negative cross-shift pulmonary function changes. Although aviary housing exposed workers to significantly higher respiratory exposures, cross-shift pulmonary function changes did not differ significantly between houses. Higher levels of mask use were protective; poultry workers should wear respiratory protection as appropriate to avoid health decrements.