Deoxynivalenol (DON) is regularly monitored by the feed industry to evaluate feed quality with respect to mycotoxin contamination. In Norway, the recommended maximum concentration of DON in pig feed is 500 μg/kg, while the EU limits the DON concentration in pig feed to 900 μg/kg. Nevertheless, reports of mycotoxin-related problems in pigs are increasingly common. The observed problems with pig health might be an indicator for farmers likewise being exposed to potentially hazardous pathogens or toxins.
The inhalational potential for DON exposure at pig farms is yet to be assessed, but the DON concentration in grain dust at Norwegian grain farms, grain elevators and compound feed mills ranges from about hundred to nearly 10 000 μg/kg. Endotoxin is known to have synergistic effects with DON, and is expected to be found in large amounts at pig farms. The total direct counts of bacterial cells and fungal spores in pig housings is generally in the range 106-1010/m3 and 103-108/m3, respectively.
Exposure assessment in pig production facilities is thus needed to investigate the health impact of toxigenic fungi, mycotoxins and endotoxins on farmers and pigs, and in order to provide the necessary knowledge for interventions. This is sought to be accomplished in this study by investigating the occurrence of potentially toxigenic fungi, mycotoxins and endotoxins in samples of bedding, feed, settled dust and air at a number of different pig farms.