Assessment of worker exposure to occupational organic dust in a hemp processing facility
Annals of Work Exposures and Health
School of Medical and Health Sciences
The cultivation and processing of industrial hemp, Cannabis sativa L., is a developing industry in Australia. Exposure to hemp dust is demonstrated as producing reactive and respiratory health effects, potentially causing permanent lung disease or damage. The aim of this study was to assess the airborne organic dust concentrations generated in an Australian hemp processing facility. Personal sampling, in the breathing zone of exposed workers was undertaken for exposure to respirable dust, along with parallel static sampling for airborne concentrations of inhalable and respirable dust fractions. Both static and personal sampling showed that respirable dust concentrations (mg m−3) exceeded the Australian Institute of Occupational Hygienists (AIOH) recommended maximum exposure limit of 1 mg m−3 (respirable fraction) for dusts not otherwise specified, with mean exposures (mg m−3) of M = 1.33, standard deviation (SD) = 1.09 (range 0.07–3.67 mg m−3) and M = 4.49, SD = 4.49 (range 0.77–11.08 mg m−3). The results of the investigation indicate that workers in the hemp processing industry are at risk of developing permanent and disabling respiratory disease due to high dust exposure. There is no Australian occupational exposure limit specifically for hemp dust. It is recommended further research is needed and industry-specific guidance material or model code of practice developed to effectively control exposures.