History

A detailed personal and occupational and environmental history, including a thorough review of job tasks, is essential to understand likely exposures in the agricultural setting. Work practices need to be adequately understood with attention to types, duration, and intensity of likely exposures, whether appropriate environmental and engineering controls are present, and if respiratory protective gear has been used for work activities. It also helps to ask the patient if coworker(s) have similar symptoms, as this may suggest a common workplace exposure or hazard (37,96,120,121).

If available, specific industrial hygiene data on the level of exposure and the agent to which the patient was exposed should be requested from the employer. Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs) can provide useful information about the important health, safety, and toxicological properties of the product's ingredients. Under federal law in the United States these must be furnished by the employer to the worker and health care provider upon request. However, this information may be difficult to obtain in many agricultural areas of the world.

Information about the patient's social habits, such as cigarette smoking, hobbies, home, and living conditions, should be collected, as these factors outside of the work environment can contribute to or cause respiratory diseases (96).

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