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January 2, 1981

Death Caused by Fermenting Manure

Author Affiliations

From the Special Studies Branch, Bureau of Epidemiology, Center for Disease Control, Atlanta (Dr Morse); the Section of Environmental Epidemiology, Bureau of Prevention, Department of Health and Social Services, State of Wisconsin, Madison (Ms Woodbury and Mr Rentmeester); and the City-County Health Department, Eau Claire, Wis (Mr Farmer). Dr Morse is currently with the State of New York Department of Health, Albany, NY, and Mr Rentmeester is currently with the County Health Department, Stevens Point, Wis.

JAMA. 1981;245(1):63-64. doi:10.1001/jama.1981.03310260041027

FARM workers are at risk of contracting a unique set of occupationally related illnesses.2,3 Chemical toxicity is usually pesticide related but is also seen in settings like silage storage where toxic gases can be released. In contrast, manure handling has involved little chemical exposure except for that experienced through the nasal route. We present information to document how conversion of waste management units to more efficient liquid-manure systems can result in an increased risk of toxic chemical exposure.

Report of a Case  A 16-year-old farm worker began using high-pressure hot water to clean manure from gutters inside a recently emptied calf barn in Wisconsin. He was 10 m from a 378,500-L underground liquid-manure storage tank, the contents of which had been agitating for 30 to 60 minutes (Figure). After ten minutes he began to cough, vomited, collapsed, and died. A co-worker who was working close to an exhaust fan