Occupational Exposure to Vapor-Gas, Dust, and Fumes in a Cohort of Rural Adults in Iowa Compared with a Cohort of Urban Adults

working populations can be assessed.

Many rural residents work in the field of agriculture; however, employment in nonagricultural jobs also is common. Because previous studies in rural communities often have focused on agricultural workers, much less is known about the occupational exposures in other types of jobs in rural settings. Characterising airborne occupational exposures that can contribute to respiratory diseases is important so that differences between rural and urban working populations can be assessed. This investigation used data from the baseline questionnaire completed by adult rural residents participating in the Keokuk County Rural Health Study (KCRHS) from 1994-2011. The distribution of jobs and occupational exposures to vapor-gas, dust, and fumes (VGDF) among all participants was analysed and stratified by farming status (current, former, and never) then compared with a cohort of urban workers from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA). Occupational exposure in the last job was assessed with a job-exposure matrix (JEM) developed for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The COPD JEM assesses VGDF exposure at levels of none or low, medium, and high. The 1,699 KCRHS (rural) participants were more likely to have medium or high occupational VGDF exposure (43.2%) at their last job than their urban MESA counterparts (15.0% of 3,667 participants). One fifth (20.8%) of the rural participants currently farmed, 43.1% were former farmers, and approximately one third (36.1%) had never farmed. These three farming groups differed in VGDF exposure at the last job, with the prevalence of medium or high exposure at 80.2% for current farmers, 38.7% for former farmers, and 27.4% for never farmers, and all three percentages were higher than the 15.0% medium or high level of VGDF exposure for urban workers. Rural workers, including those who had never farmed, were more likely to experience occupational VGDF exposure than urban workers. The occupational exposures of rural adults assessed using the COPD JEM will be used to investigate their potential association with obstructive respiratory health problems (e.g., airflow limitation and chronic bronchitis). The authors concluded that this assessment might highlight occupations in need of preventive interventions.

Authors: Doney BC, Henneberger PK, Humann MJ, Liang X, Kelly KM, Cox-Ganser JM. ; Full Source: Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report Surveillance Summaries. 2017 Nov 3;66(21):1-5. doi: 10.15585/mmwr.ss6621a1.