More airborne hazards on the farm

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tractor sprayer

Last week’s Farming 101 covered dangerous gases that farmers can be exposed to. This week, we continue airborne hazards with mold, dust, chemicals, pesticides and fumes.

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1Molds
Can occur in hay, bedding, spoiled silage or grain. Mold spores in grains and silage attach to dust, are absorbed through inhalation and affect the lungs. Wear dust/mist respirator when handling moldy hay, grain and silage.

2Dusts
Found in confinement buildings, fields, grinding and conveying feed and silage, animal hair, skin and wastes. Dust is absorbed through inhalation, has no direct symptoms but may aggravate existing lung conditions and cause lung problems after long exposure. Provide adequate ventilation and use approved dust/mist respirator.

3Disinfectants
Power washing animal confinement buildings for extended periods could cause inhalation of chemicals. Chlorine, absorbed through inhalation, affects skin and swallowing, causes irritation of eyes, nose, mouth, headache,  dizziness, nausea, coughing and wheezing. Use a respirator with appropriate chemical cartridge and filter, goggles, gloves, protective suit and rubber boots when handling this chemical.

Organic vapors, vapors, and mists absorbed through inhalation affect skin and swallowing. Causes irritation of eyes, nose, mouth, headache, dizziness, nausea, coughing and wheezing, and can affect liver, kidney and central nervous system. Wear appropriate protective clothing, gloves, eyewear and use respirator with organic vapor cartridge and pre-filter, goggles, gloves, protective suit and rubber boots.

4Pesticides
The greatest danger is diluting or mixing concentrates — a potential danger associated with the application of product by spraying, rubbing or other contact.

Symptoms vary with a specific agent but may cause lung damage and systemic poisoning. Use a respirator with appropriate pesticide cartridge (organic vapor cartridge and pre-filter), chemical goggles and protective clothing. Read the label for other personal protective requirements.

5Fumigation of seeds
Fumigants can be liquid mist or gas/vapor, absorbed through inhalation and some skin absorption. Symptoms vary. Adhere to re-entry times after fumigant release (printed on the label) and provide adequate mechanical or natural ventilation, wear protective clothing, gloves, eye protection and respirator as specified on the label, use an air-supplied respirator if fumigant does not have adequate warning properties (i.e., odor).

6Fumes
Metal fumes can be absorbed through inhalation during welding of certain aluminum, galvanized or stainless steel; soldering and metal pouring. Small particles penetrate to a deep part of the lungs. Can cause eye irritation, dizziness, nausea, “metal fume fever.” Provide adequate ventilation, wear approved respirator and monitor exposure.

Sources: Colorado State University Cooperative Extension, Agricultural airborne hazards.

(Farm and Dairy is featuring a series of “101” columns throughout the year to help young and beginning farmers master farm living. From finances to management to machinery repair and animal care, farmers do it all.)

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