Year of Publication

2015

College

Public Health

Degree Name

Master of Public Health (M.P.H.)

Committee Chair

David Mannino, MD

Committee Member

Wayne Sanderson, PhD, MS

Committee Member

Steven Browning, PhD

Abstract

Background/Objectives

Evidence suggests working in horse barns is associated with adverse respiratory effects among Latino thoroughbred workers, yet no studies to date have measured pulmonary function. We examined the prevalence of self-reported respiratory symptoms, abnormal pulmonary function, and associated occupational factors among Latino thoroughbred farmworkers.

Methods

Participants were recruited via a community-based, purposive sampling strategy and participated in an interview-administered survey and spirometer test. Surveys and spirometry tests were administered to 80 participants by two trained health promoters (Promotoras) in July-September 2014. Pulmonary function (abnormal/normal) was classified by a pulmonologist. Demographic and occupational factors were assessed for associations with respiratory outcomes by multivariate logistic regression.

Results

Participants were primarily male (74%) and of Mexican nationality (76%), while 21% were current smokers, 18% were former smokers, and 61% had never smoked. On average, participants were 37 years old, had lived in the US for 17 years, and were employed for 5 years at a current horse farm. Participants reported working in a barn an average of 21 hours/week and working in dusty conditions an average of 22 hours/week. Few participants reported wearing a dust mask in the barn (27%), and among all participants, 94% reported infrequent dust mask utilization. A large proportion (79%) of participants reported experiencing upper and/or lower respiratory symptoms in the past 12 months. The prevalence of physician or nurse diagnosed asthma was 18% and the prevalence of abnormal pulmonary function was 27%. Among those with abnormal pulmonary function, one participant had obstructed spirometry, while the remainder had restricted spirometry. Multivariate logistic regression indicates that a shorter duration of horse farm employment (≤5 versus >5 years) and a shorter time living in the US (≤10 versus >10 years) increased the odds of abnormal pulmonary function (Farm Employment: OR = 6.3, 95% CI = 1.15-34.35; Time living in the US: OR = 5.2, 95% CI = 1.3-20.6).

Conclusions

Latino thoroughbred workers may be at risk for adverse respiratory conditions due to chronic exposure to dusty barn environments and limited use of dust masks. Future research will further clarify the occupational and social factors affecting the respiratory health of this worker group. Promoting safety education regarding occupational respiratory risks and the use of dusk masks may help to improve the respiratory health of this vulnerable worker group.

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