Year of Publication



Public Health

Degree Name

Dr. of Public Health (Dr.P.H.)

Committee Chair

Wayne Sanderson, PhD, MS

Committee Member

David Mannino, MD

Committee Member

Steven Browning, PhD

Committee Member

Heather Bush, PhD


Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a progressive disease that is characterized by limited airflow.1 In the United States (U.S.) alone, COPD is the third leading cause of death.2,3 While smoking remains the strongest risk factor for COPD, 20 percent of patients who die from COPD have never smoked.5–7 The American Thoracic 3 Society showed that about 15% of COPD cases might be attributable to workplace exposure.8 Agricultural dust exposure has long been recognized as a cause of decreased respiratory function, and exposures to both forms of dust may exacerbate other important risk factors of COPD and lead to the development of lower respiratory disease.17 The purpose of this capstone was to evaluate if there is an association between self-reported occupational/agricultural dust exposure and respiratory lung function through two independent pilot studies. The primary results from these pilot studies have identified an occupational group, agricultural workers, which may be at risk for pulmonary obstruction and restriction. Further, the results of these studies indicated that primary job occupational dust exposure may also increase the likelihood of pulmonary restriction in those exposed. The information collected in these pilot studies provided the authors with a range of risk factors that may place individuals susceptible for pulmonary obstruction and restriction and showed general trends which will be useful in the development of larger studies that further assess risk factors and the presence of obstructed and restricted pulmonary disease.

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