Assessment of respiratory problems in workers associated with intensive poultry facilities in Pakistan



The poultry industry in Pakistan has flourished since the 1960s; however, there are scarce data regarding the impact of occupational exposure on the pulmonary health of farm workers in terms of years working in the industry. The objective of the present study was to assess the effect of poultry environment on the health of occupationally exposed poultry farmers in countries of warm climatic regions, such as Pakistan. This study will also show the effect of exposure to poultry facilities on the health of poultry farmers in the context of low-income countries with a relatively inadequate occupational exposure risk management.


The lung function capacity of 79 poultry workers was measured using a spirometer. Along with spirometry, a structured questionnaire was also administrated to obtain information about age, height, weight, smokers/nonsmokers, years of working experience, and pulmonary health of farm workers. The workers who were directly involved in the care and handling of birds in these intensive facilities were considered and divided into four groups based on their years of working experience: Group I (3-10 months), Group II (1-5 years), Group III (6-10 years), and Group IV (more than 11 years). The forced vital capacity (FVC), forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1) and the FEV1/FVC ratio were considered to identify lung function abnormalities. Statistical analysis was carried out using independent sample t test, Chi-square test, Pearson’s correlation, and linear regression.


Based on the performed spirometry, 68 (86 %) of workers were found normal and healthy, whereas 11 (14 %) had a mild obstruction. Of the 11 workers with mild obstruction, the highest number with respect to the total was in Group IV (more than 11 years of working experience) followed by Group III and Group II. Most of the workers were found healthy, which seems to be because of the healthy survivor effect. For the independent sample t test, a significant difference was noticed between healthy and nonhealthy farmers, whereas Chi-square test showed a significant association with height, drugs, and working experience. Linear regression that was stratified by respiratory symptoms showed for workers with symptoms, regression models for all spirometric parameters (FVC, FEV1, and FEV1/FVC) have better predictive power or R square value than those of workers without symptoms.


These findings suggest that lung function capacity was directly related to years of working experience. With increasing number of working years, symptoms of various respiratory problems enhanced in the poultry workers. It should be noted that most of the poultry workers were healthy and young, the rationale being that there is a high turnover rate in this profession. The mobility in this job and our finding of 86% of the healthy workers in the present study also proposed healthy worker survivor effect.

Authors: Yasmeen R, Ali Z, Tyrrel S, Nasir ZA
; Full Source: Safety and health at work. 2020 Mar;11(1):118-124. doi: 10.1016/ Epub 2020 Jan 7.