Occupational health characteristics of women on dairy farms in Pennsylvania

Ginger D. Fenton, Kathryn J. Brasier, George F. Henning, Rama B. Radhakrishna, Bhushan M. Jayarao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Women play a significant role in Pennsylvania production agriculture, thereby exposing themselves to occupational health risks. The goal of this cross-sectional study was to assess the incidence of health conditions with a possible zoonotic origin in this underserved population. A written survey was sent to a stratified, random sample of dairy farms in Pennsylvania (n = 3709) using a modified version of the Dillman method. In addition to demographic data, the survey was used to collect information on the occurrence of zoonotic diseases, gastrointestinal illnesses, respiratory problems, dermatoses, and women's reproductive health issues. Of the 624 respondents, 10.4% (n = 65) reported that they had contracted a disease from an animal. Interestingly, only 9 respondents indicated that they had suffered from foodborne illnesses in the past year including salmonellosis (n = 1), campylobacteriosis (n = 1), and gastroenteritis due to Escherichia coli (n = 1). A risk factor associated with difficulty breathing was the lack of use of a breathing mask, whereas ventilation in the free stall area appeared to offer a protective effect. Difficulty breathing was reported by 9.8% (n = 61) of the respondents. Risk factors associated with skin disorders included raising fruits and/or vegetables, raising swine, and not wearing gloves when milking. The findings of the study suggest that many of the illnesses and conditions could have been acquired by working with dairy animals and their environment. Based on the findings of this study, additional investigations on the causes and prevention of these illnesses are warranted.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7-15
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Agromedicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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