Assessment of dust exposure and lung function in Appalachian agricultural workers

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a progressive disease that is characterized by limited airflow associated with inflammatory response in the airways and lungs to particles and gases. Agricultural dust exposure is a contributing factor to the morbidity and mortality of COPD. Recent epidemiologic studies suggest that organic and inorganic dust accounts for 20 percent of the patients with COPD. Forced expiratory volume (FEV) is the parameter most commonly used to assess COPD. The purpose of this research proposal is to use a handheld COPD screening device, Vitalograph, to characterize the disease burden among agricultural workers in Appalachia and surrounding counties who report dust exposure related to agricultural practices.

OUTCOMES: funding provided critical support for the CARERC ASH trainee’s dissertation data collection and analysis, a unique study whose findings suggest that compared to participants who report no dust exposure, those individuals with dust exposure are more likely to have an abnormal Vitalograph result. . Results were presented on a national scale at the American Public Health Association (APHA) meeting in November 2015. Dr. Holsinger used her dissertation as a catalyst to her job as Director of Environmental Epidemiology division of the Virginia Department of Health.