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Factors affecting vegetable growers' exposure to fungal bioaerosols and airborne dust

Hansen VM, Meyling NV, Winding A, et al. Factors affecting vegetable growers' exposure to fungal bioaerosols and airborne dust. Annals of Occupational Hygiene 2012;56(2):170-81.
Date: 2012
Scientific Article
[Open access] We have quantified vegetable growers' exposure to fungal bioaerosol components including (1?3)-ß-d-glucan (ß-glucan), total fungal spores, and culturable fungal units. Furthermore, we have evaluated factors that might affect vegetable growers' exposure to fungal bioaerosols and airborne dust. Investigated environments included greenhouses producing cucumbers and tomatoes, open fields producing cabbage, broccoli, and celery, and packing facilities. Measurements were performed at different times during the growth season and during execution of different work tasks. Bioaerosols were collected with personal and stationary filter samplers. Selected fungal species (Beauveria spp., Trichoderma spp., Penicillium olsonii, and Penicillium brevicompactum) were identified using different polymerase chain reaction-based methods and sequencing. We found that the factors (i) work task, (ii) crop, including growth stage of handled plant material, and (iii) open field versus greenhouse significantly affected the workers' exposure to bioaerosols. Packing of vegetables and working in open fields caused significantly lower exposure to bioaerosols, e.g. mesophilic fungi and dust, than harvesting in greenhouses and clearing of senescent greenhouse plants. Also removing strings in cucumber greenhouses caused a lower exposure to bioaerosols than harvest of cucumbers while removal of old plants caused the highest exposure. In general, the exposure was higher in greenhouses than in open fields. The exposures to ß-glucan during harvest and clearing of senescent greenhouse plants were very high (median values ranging between 50 and 1500 ng m-3) compared to exposures reported from other occupational environments. In conclusion, vegetable growers' exposure to bioaerosols was related to the environment, in which they worked, the investigated work tasks, and the vegetable crop.
Link: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/annhyg/mer090
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