Eye and respiratory symptoms in poultry processing workers exposed to chlorine by-products
CDC/NIOSH responded to a request to investigate complaints of eye and respiratory irritation among workers in a poultry processing facility's evisceration department. Investigators administered symptom questionnaires and sampled for chlorine and chloramines. Spirometry was performed on workers before and after their work shift. Symptoms were significantly more prevalent in evisceration workers than in dark meat workers (a control group). Air concentrations of chloramine compounds (i.e., trichloramine and 'soluble chlorine') were significantly higher in the evisceration area than the dark meat area. Exposure levels were significantly higher for employees reporting various symptoms compared to employees not reporting those symptoms. Mean trichloramine exposure concentrations were significantly higher in workers with significant cross-shift declines in lung function; air concentrations of 'soluble chlorine' were higher as well, however, not significantly so. Results of this evaluation suggest a health hazard may exist from exposure to chloramines.