Design and Evaluation of a Control technology for Dust and Bioaerosol in Swine Buildings

PIs: Matthew Nonnenmann, PhD, CIH and Thomas Peters, PhD, CIH

Project Dates: 2022-2027

Research type: Translational (NIOSH r2p approach)

Did You Know?

  • Hazardous gas, dust, and bioaerosol concentrations are often very high in livestock buildings, especially during the winter period (December – March) in the GPCAH region.
  • When inhaled, agricultural workers can suffer adverse cardiopulmonary health effects, such as pulmonary symptoms, intense upper and lower airway inflammation, decreased pulmonary function, organic dust toxic syndrome (ODTS), chronic bronchitis, and lung disease.
  • Animals also experience these poor health outcomes. They also suffer from large-scale outbreaks of viruses and ??? spread through bioaerosols transmission.
  • In this project we are deploying our novel engineering control technology to reduce hazardous concentrations of dust, bioaerosols, and zoonotic organisms in swine buildings. We call this technology the mRVs or mobile recirculating ventilation system, as illustrated in the photo on the right.
Trailer-based enclosing the recirculating ventilation system (designed for the commercial swine farrowimng building

Specific Aims

Aim 1: Communicate with stakeholders to develop design criteria for the mobile recirculating ventilation system (mRVS).

  • Focus groups will be conducted with stakeholders to provide feedback on the physical characteristics of the prototype mRVS (g., construction materials), inform costs estimates (e.g., mortality), and experimental approach (e.g., phase of production to test the mRVS).
  • Summary recommendations will be used inform mRVS design, refine cost models (Aim 2) and the experimental approach to field validate the mRVS (Aim 3).


Aim 2: Optimize the mRVS to meet design criteria.

  • We will develop, validate, and enhance cost simulation models for use of mRVS technology, using field testing data and swine industry stakeholder recommendations.
  • We will identify an optimized mRVS design that minimizes operational, maintenance, and capital costs while maintaining effectiveness and scalability for use across a range of swine building designs.


Aim 3: Conduct field validation of the optimized mRVS.

  • We will construct and deploy mRVSs on swine farms.
  • We will compare dust and bioaerosol concentrations measured in a “treatment room” to those in a matched “control room” using a repeated measures design.
  • We expect to observe reductions in dust and bioaerosol concentrations with mRVS use, demonstrate cost-savings, and translate our findings to industry stakeholders.

Project Goal

Our long-term goals are to: 1) reduce adverse cardiopulmonary health effects among workers and animals in agriculture, and 2) reduce the number of heard events spread by bioaerosols. The primary objectives of this project are to demonstrate the effectiveness of a low-cost (≤$500), miniaturized RVS (mRVS) to control dust and bioaerosol concentrations when integrated into swine buildings. We will use a “research to practice” (r2p) approach to communicate with stakeholders to identify optimized design and cost parameters, and we build and evaluate the mRVS technology performance in swine production.


Study Team

Matthew Nonnenmann, PhD, CIH (PI)

Thomas Peters PhD, (PI)

Ralph Altmaier, MS, Industrial Hygienist

Marsha Cheyney, MPH, Center Evaluation

Emma Thornell, PhD, Postdoc

Michelle Wei, MS, Graduate Research Assistant



Previous Work

Relevance to Ag Center Goals: Design and evaluation of a control technology for dust and bioaerosol in swine buildings

The GPCAH has a strong history of research in agricultural safety and health (ASH) and applying the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) hierarchy of controls to reduce worker exposures. Our team has extensive experience measuring dust and bioaerosols in agricultural environments. The status quo for respiratory protection in the swine industry is respirator use, however, voluntary use among workers is limited and engineering controls are more effective. Using engineering controls during the winter period (December – March) in the midwestern US is needed as ventilation is minimal and personal exposures to dust and bioaerosol are high. Our long-term goal is to develop a recirculating ventilation system (RVS) to control dust and bioaerosols in livestock production buildings and translate our findings using the NIOSH research to practice (r2p) approach.

This project focused on the development and evaluation of filtration and ultraviolet light – C band (UVC) radiation in series with a RVS for dust and bioaerosol control in swine production. UVC light forms pyrimidine dimers, which disrupt DNA transcription and replication resulting in germicidal effects. The project was led by the principal investigator (Nonnenmann) and Co-Investigators (Anthony and Peters). The GPCAH allows for the unique collection of expertise (e.g., three Certified Industrial Hygienists trained in engineering and microbiology) to control worker exposures in agriculture. As a result, this past project is among the first to integrate RVS and UVC technology in commercial swine production in the US. This project is among the most comprehensive bioaerosol studies ever conducted in swine production. The project aligns well with GPCAH mission and long-term goals 3 and 4, by conducting basic and applied research to develop effective design solutions to protect the health and safety of agricultural workers and disseminate impactful prevention messages to farm workers and their advocates.

The goals of the project were to develop, deploy and evaluate a large, filtration-based RVS that uses UVC to reduce dust and bioaerosol in commercial swine production. Aim 1 of the project resulted in the development of trailer-based RVS (tRVS) that was scaled for commercial swine production that was suited for deploying outside of production buildings, minimizing the impact on production as we tested this technology. Aim 2 resulted in the development and evaluation of a UVC plenum to enclose in the tRVS that inactivated bioaerosol at targeted airflow rates (e.g., 1600 cfm). Aim 3 evaluated the effect of tRVS use on dust and bioaerosol concentrations in in commercial swine production. This work broadens previous studies by designing and evaluating the tRVS for commercial operations. Our rationale is that effectively translating research findings about RVS effectiveness, costs, and cost-savings to stakeholders will lead to adoption, and concurrently improve worker and animal health in the swine industry.  Link to project page.