Dostoevsky said, “There is not a thing more positive than bread.” Both nourishing and comforting, bread offers warmth and security to those who ingest it. And yet, the safety and wellbeing of those who make it is in jeopardy. Illness associated with milling flour and baking bread was reported as far back as the early 1700’s when respiratory and allergy-related symptoms were first recorded. Modern day immunological techniques measure allergens and have identified flour and grain as the root cause of allergic irritation, sensitization, and respiratory illness in bakers worldwide. Despite being the universal ingredient for baked goods, raw flour – when in dust form – is a hazardous substance.
The specific health condition suffered by those who labor in the baking or milling industries goes by numerous monikers. “Baker’s Lung”, “Baker’s Asthma”, and “Baker’s Allergy” are used interchangeably to describe significant respiratory problems suffered by those who are routinely exposed to grain and flour dust. Wheezing, productive coughing, chest tightness, eye and nose irritation can present in anyone who comes in contact with these particulates. And, in cases of regular occupational exposure, symptoms of chronic respiratory disease are not uncommon – asthma and other lung conditions are the most worrisome.
Unfortunately, workers in bakeries and milling facilities cannot avoid exposure as eliminating the source of risk, the flour itself, is not an option. But there are ways to protect personnel from the health hazards associated with flour dust. Employees should routinely wear protective equipment (such as facemasks) and clean indoor air quality (IAQ) should be maintained with vigilance. The most successful means of guaranteeing a clean air environment is by controlling particulates via source capture, extraction and ventilation.
To ensure your workplace has an IEQ (indoor environmental quality) that is healthy for all employees, contact an Airsystems-inc specialist to evaluate and offer control measures for your clean air vulnerabilities.