25 December 1998

Farmers lung a big risk this winter

TOO many producers and labourers are complacent about the risk of farmers lung, which may pose an increasing risk this winter.

The HSEs Mike Sebastian says the disease – which is caused by breathing in contaminated spores carried in mouldy hay, straw and even silage – is likely to be a big concern this winter after warm, damp conditions during hay and silage making, and at harvest.

Mr Sebastian says small bales pose the greatest risk, as they are manhandled rather than spread mechanically. "Calf and sheep producers are likely to be most affected," he adds.

HSE is concerned that producers can be misled when buying masks to protect themselves and staff. Mr Sebastian says: "Masks must conform to the manufacturing standard BS EN 149 to ensure they keep out the small particles that do most damage. The standard should be stamped on packaging."

Other practical steps to reduce risk of breathing in spores include: Allowing livestock to spread straw bedding rather than using a fork, improving ventilation in sheds and working up-wind when spreading out, brushing off overalls immediately after bedding up and shutting tractor windows when using a mechanical chopper.

Producers concerned about farmers lung can contact for HSE to obtain a free leaflet of the same name on 01787-881165. &#42