Date of Publication
Introduction. Although 5.4% of the Vermont population participates in agriculture as an occupation, little data exists on the prevalence of asthma in Vermont dairy farmers, due to inadequate sample sizes. Previous studies have shown dairy farmers are at risk of respiratory illness due to unique exposures intrinsic to their occupation. We conducted a study to assess the prevalence of asthma in dairy farmers in Vermont, to understand rates among this population and potential occupational risks.
Methods. We distributed a paper survey modeled after previously-validated surveys, such as the BRFSS, to farmers at Vermont Farmer Bureau meetings, farmers markets, and individual farmers through Cabot Creamery. Out of 309 distributed surveys, we received 176 completed surveys for a response rate of 57%.
Results. Self-reported asthma rate in dairy farmers was 21% (22% in dairy only farmers), with 90% of these cases reported as confirmed by a doctor. Of non-dairy farmers, 11% self-reported experiencing asthma. Farming activities associated with exacerbation of asthma symptoms were milking, prepping or cleaning bedding, and haying. 31% of dairy-only farmers reported symptom exacerbations due to these occupational triggers.
Conclusions. The prevalence of asthma in Vermont dairy farmers is one of the highest reported rates in any Vermont occupation. Our data suggest that certain occupational exposures may increase risk of asthma and warrant further study; certain farming practices were associated with exacerbation of respiratory symptoms in farmers diagnosed with asthma. These findings and further research can assist in development of health care and preventive health measures for farmers.
Rebecca Ryan, American Lung Association
David Kaminsky, University of Vermont Medical Center
American Lung Association
Occupational Safety and Health, Respiratory Diseases
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Everett, Wyll T.; Close, Victoria Lauren; Merriam-Stelfox, Rebecca; Paladugu, Sravana; Reibel, Jacob B.; Russell, Ruby L.; Ryan, Rebecca; and Kaminsky, David, "Asthma in Vermont Dairy Farmers" (2017). Public Health Projects, 2008-present. 239.