Respiratory Health

Red tractor stirs up dust in the field

What is respiratory health?

Agricultural workers are exposed to high levels of air pollution while working outside (e.g. environmental dust, transportation, and/or agricultural practices) and can be exposed to allergens when working in close proximity to animals, such as densely populated dairy or chicken farms.

How does it affect agricultural workers?

Some of the highest rates of asthma in the country are in the California Central Valley, which is the primary center for agricultural production and home to some of the country's highest air pollution levels. Frequent pollution and allergen exposure may cause and/or exacerbate respiratory diseases, such as pneumoconios (small airway disease) and coccidiodomycosis (Valley fever).

How is WCAHS addressing this issue?

WCAHS research has included studies of respiratory diseases and the effects on worker exposure to toxic air pollutants from new chicken caging laws in California (and elsewhere), as well as on dairy farms. Air pollution (particulate matter emissions) from California’s San Joaquin Valley and Imperial Valley is being collected at various farming sites with different labor-intensive crops to study its toxicity, health effects, and impact on respiratory health.