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Ann Occup Hyg. 2012 Jan;56(1):25-36. doi: 10.1093/annhyg/mer084. Epub 2011 Oct 5.

Exposure to grain dust in Great Britain.

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Institute of Occupational Medicine, Research Avenue North, Edinburgh EH14 4AP, UK.


Airborne grain dust is a complex mixture of fragments of organic material from grain, plus mineral matter from soil, and possible insect, fungal, or bacterial contamination or their toxic products, such as endotoxin. In the 1990s, grain workers in Britain were frequently exposed to inhalable dust >10 mg.m(-3) (8 h), with particularly high exposures being found at terminals where grain was imported or exported and in drying operations (personal exposure typically approximately 20 mg.m(-3)). Since then, the industry has made substantial progress in improving the control of airborne dust through better-designed processes, increased automation, and an improved focus on product quality. We have used information from the published scientific literature and a small survey of industry representatives to estimate current exposure levels. These data suggest that current long-term exposure to inhalable dust for most workers is on average less than approximately 3 mg.m(-3), with perhaps 15-20% of individual personal exposures being >10 mg.m(-3). There are no published data from Britain on short-term exposure during cleaning and other tasks. We have estimated average levels for a range of tasks and judge that the highest levels, for example during some cleaning activities and certain process tasks such as loading and packing, are probably approximately10 mg.m(-3). Endotoxin levels were judged likely to be <10⁴ EU m(-3) throughout the industry provided inhalable dust levels are <10 mg.m(-3). There are no published exposure data on mycotoxin, respirable crystalline silica, and mite contamination but these are not considered to present widespread problems in the British industry. Further research should be carried out to confirm these findings.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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