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Respiratory protection required to prevent farmer's lung

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has issued a warning to industry workers about the dangers of extrinsic allergic alveolitis (EAA).

EAA is a group of lung diseases that are caused by something originating outside the body that triggers an abnormally increased body reaction and leads to inflammation in the small air sacs of the lungs.

Symptoms of EAA include fever, cough, worsening breathlessness and weight loss. It can be triggered by a range of common substances, including bacteria, fungi, animal proteins, plants and chemicals.

Heavy industry workers are at risk of EAA from contaminated metal working fluid (MWF), which are used as lubricants for metal machining processes such as drilling, milling and turning.

Another form of EAA is farmer's lung, which the HSE says is probably the most common occupational type and is caused by mould spores that originate from vegetable matter such as hay.

Farmers can protect themselves by drying crops before storage and keeping the storage area well-ventilated.

The HSE also advises that "respiratory protection should … be worn by farm workers when handling stored crops, particularly if they have been stored damp or are likely to be mouldy". 

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