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Aerial Dust Concentration in Different Facilities for Laying Hens

03 December 2013

New research from France raises concerns about the levels of dust in floor and aviary housing systems for laying hens in terms of the health of farm workers. Cage systems were markedly less dusty.

Agricultural workers, and pig and poultry farmers in particular, are exposed to airborne contaminants including organic dusts, gases, fungi, bacteria and endotoxins that can have adverse effects on their respiratory health, according to Sophie Le Bouquin of the French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety (ANSES) in Ploufragan.

In a paper published in Poultry Science with co-authors at ANSES and with SEPIA-Santé, she reports that, to date, data comparing the aerial dust concentrations in the different hen-housing systems used by commercial poultry farmers are scarce.

They conducted an epidemiological study in commercial housing facilities for laying hens, half of which were housed in a cage system without litter and the remaining half on an on-floor system with litter.

Their aims were to measure and compare the ambient dust concentrations in the different housing systems and identify any factors in building design and hen management that could influence the dust burden.

Average concentration of respirable ambient dusts (≤4μm) measured in the on-floor system was 0.37mg per cubic metre (95 per cent CI: 0.31–0.42). This is higher than average values in the cage system at 0.13mg per cubic metre (95 per cent CI: 0.11–0.14; P=0.01).

The highest dust concentration was observed in aviaries at 1.19mg per cubic metre (95 per cent CI: 0.80–1.59).

The type of housing and the presence of litter, therefore, affected air quality.

Dust concentrations in caged buildings were influenced by cage design and rearing practices, whereas litter management, the age of hens, and temperature control were determining factors for dust levels in floor houses, concluded Le Bouquin and co-authors.

They added that their study highlights the need for information and preventive measures to reduce the exposure of poultry workers to bioaerosols, particularly in alternative systems where high levels of ambient dust were observed.


Le Bouquin S., A. Huneau-Salaün, D. Huonnic, L. Balaine, S. Martin and V. Michel. 2013. Aerial dust concentration in cage-housed, floor-housed, and aviary facilities for laying hens. Poult. Sci. 92(11):2827-2833.  doi: 10.3382/ps.2013-03032

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December 2013

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