IRSST - Institut de recherche Robert-Sauvé en santé et en sécurité du travail

Impact on Air Quality and Workers’ Health of Alternative Housing Systems for Laying Hens


Every day, egg producers whose barns are equipped with conventional housing systems are exposed to substantial quantities of bioaerosols that are harmful to their respiratory health. Since 2017, the Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Pullets and Laying Hens has obliged Canadian egg producers to replace traditional cages with alternative housing systems to promote well-being and natural behaviours in laying hens. The presence of litter, the hens’ increased freedom of movement and the management of manure and flocks associated with alternative housing could have an impact on air quality and bioburden (suspended particles such as bioaerosols).

A new study funded by the IRSST plans to assess air quality and characterize bioaerosols in barns with conventional and alternative housing systems. The research team will measure respiratory function, the presence of inflammatory blood markers and the prevalence of allergies in egg producers, as well as the diversity of bacteria in their nasopharyngeal flora. The effectiveness of dust and gas reduction methods for air quality and the presence of bioaerosols in a commercial aviary will also be analyzed and measured.

This study will describe egg producers’ exposure to dust and bioaerosols and their health, as a function of housing systems at egg farms. The team will be able to recommend strategies to improve air quality in aviary systems and enriched cages, an emerging workplace in Quebec.