Influence of horse stable environment on human airways
1 Department of Medical Sciences, Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Uppsala University Hospital, SE-751 85 Uppsala, Sweden
2 Department of Clinical Sciences, Section of Large Animal Surgery and Medicine, Equine Internal Medicine, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, SE-750 07 Uppsala, Sweden
Journal of Occupational Medicine and Toxicology 2009, 4:10 doi:10.1186/1745-6673-4-10Published: 25 May 2009
Many people spend considerable amount of time each day in equine stable environments either as employees in the care and training of horses or in leisure activity. However, there are few studies available on how the stable environment affects human airways. This study examined in one horse stable qualitative differences in indoor air during winter and late summer conditions and assessed whether air quality was associated with clinically detectable respiratory signs or alterations to selected biomarkers of inflammation and lung function in stable personnel.
The horse stable environment and stable-workers (n = 13) in one stable were investigated three times; first in the winter, second in the interjacent late summer and the third time in the following winter stabling period. The stable measurements included levels of ammonia, hydrogen sulphide, total and respirable dust, airborne horse allergen, microorganisms, endotoxin and glucan. The stable-workers completed a questionnaire on respiratory symptoms, underwent nasal lavage with subsequent analysis of inflammation markers, and performed repeated measurements of pulmonary function.
Measurements in the horse stable showed low organic dust levels and high horse allergen levels. Increased viable level of fungi in the air indicated a growing source in the stable. Air particle load as well as 1,3-β-glucan was higher at the two winter time-points, whereas endotoxin levels were higher at the summer time-point. Two stable-workers showed signs of bronchial obstruction with increased PEF-variability, increased inflammation biomarkers relating to reported allergy, cold or smoking and reported partly work-related symptoms. Furthermore, two other stable-workers reported work-related airway symptoms, of which one had doctor's diagnosed asthma which was well treated.
Biomarkers involved in the development of airway diseases have been studied in relation to environmental exposure levels in equine stables. Respirable dust and 1,3-β-glucan levels were increased at winter stabling conditions. Some employees (3/13) had signs of bronchial obstruction, which may be aggravated by working in the stable environment. This study contributes to the identification of suitable biomarkers to monitor the indoor horse stable environment and the personnel. An improved management of the stable climate will be beneficial for the health of both stable workers and horses.