Lebanon Crop Management Video


28 September 2012

Grain Dust and Mold avoid asthma and farmers lung and wear a proper mask!

Del Voight
Got this from ISU in the email thought it was important enough to get onto my blog.  Read through this and hopefully you will be moved enough to take your own safety into mind as well as farm workers hauling grain and in all phases of the grain handling at the farm.  I know last season I followed a combine doing a harvest and sucked in who knows how much dust only to spend the next week feeling like a pneumonia case coughing constantly. I now keep a mask in the truck for this purpose.

Iowa Harvest Exposure to Mold and Dust in Grain   ISU
Grain dust is always a health concern for Iowa farmers and those working in the grain industry. Drought conditions this year may elevate human and animal health concerns because of increased dust and mold exposure. The Iowa Department of Public Health has issued 2012 Iowa Harvest Exposure to Mold and Dust in Grain, a fact sheet covering the following information.
The drought has created conditions favorable for an increase in dust and the production of aspergillus mold and associated aflatoxins. Exposure to low levels of grain dust during normal working conditions often causes reactions that are a nuisance, such as a cough, sore throat, nose and eye irritation, or feeling stuffed up or congested. People with chronic breathing problems or asthma may experience more symptoms or asthma attacks when exposed to high dust and mold levels.
Exposures to moldy and dusty grain, especially large exposures, may also cause two specific medical conditions with similar symptoms:
  1. Farmer’s Lung or Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis (FHP) – a fairly uncommon condition (one in 20 farmers) caused by a delayed allergic reaction to the dust. Repeated exposures can lead to permanent lung damage or limitations to work. A medical provider should be consulted.
  2. Organic Dust Toxic Syndrome (ODTS) – a more common toxic response to dust, molds, bacteria, or toxins in the grain dust. Recovery is usually in a few days, but a medical provider should be consulted.
Common symptoms include cough, headache, chest tightness, muscle aches, fever or generally not feeling well. If you have any of these symptoms, see your medical provider.

What you can do to protect yourself during harvest

  • Avoid direct exposures to dust whenever possible.
  • When working in extremely dusty conditions use a NIOSH-approved and certified “N-95” respirator that fits you properly. HOWEVER, consult your medical provider before using a respirator. Individuals with heart and lung conditions or other respiratory limitations should not use a respirator. N-95 respirators must be used only with a clean shaven face to ensure proper fit.
  • People with chronic respiratory health issues should avoid dust exposure.
  • If you have been exposed to large amounts of dust and you begin to feel ill, you should contact your medical provider for a proper medical evaluation.

Chuck Schwab is a professor in agricultural and biosystems engineering and the agricultural health and safety specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. He can be reached at cvschwab@iastate.edu or 515-294-4131.


  1. Asthma and dust are not a good combination, and if you can reduce the dust in your home, your asthma may improve. Asthma is a chronic (long-term) disease that makes it hard to breathe. Asthma can't be cured, but it can be managed. Thanks.

    dust reduction

  2. Molds are multi-cellular (consist of more than one cell) filamentous fungi usually having a fuzzy or cottony soft appearance when they grow in areas in your homes. They may be white, dark or in any color. They produce spores usually asexually and in large numbers which means they arise and inherit from a single parent. Asexual reproduction is the primary form of reproduction for single-celled organisms such as bacteria and fungi. They are light, resistant to drying and can easily spread through the air and contaminate any areas.
    More often, a moldy smell might be the only clue that there is a hidden mold growth away from your house. Never ignore mold odors if you can't see any mold or else this might be the main reason of illnesses within your family. You should thoroughly inspect your home before any mold problems get worse. You can find out how to inspect your house for mold at certified mold inspection

  3. When a co-op stores grain outside all winter and it molds in spring...it is across street from school. Children have allergies to mold and grain. Who do you report this to? How can it get changed?