Morphology, chemical composition, and bacterial concentration of airborne particulate matter in rabbit farms
Livestock houses are major sources of airborne particulate matter (PM), which can originate from manure, feed, feathers, skin and bedding and may contain and transport microorganisms. Improved knowledge of particle size, morphology, chemical and microbiological composition of PM in livestock houses can help identify major sources of PM and contribute to the development of appropriate source-specific reduction techniques. In rabbit production systems, however, there is limited information on specific particle characteristics. The objective of this study was to characterise airborne PM in rabbit farms in terms of morphology, chemical compositions and bacterial concentration in different size fractions. Size-fractioned PM was sampled in the air of 2 rabbit farms, 1 for fattening rabbits and 1 for reproductive does, using a virtual cascade impactor, which simultaneously collected total suspended PM (TSP), PM10 and PM2.5 size fractions. Airborne PM samples were examined by light microscopy and scanning electron microscopy combined with energy dispersive X-ray analysis. Representative samples from potential sources of PM were also collected and examined. Additionally, a methodology to extract bacteria from the collected samples of airborne PM was developed to determine the bacterial concentration per PM size fraction. Results showed that airborne PM in rabbit farms is highly complex in particle morphology, especially in size. Broken skin flakes, disintegrated particles from feed or faecal material from mechanical fracture are the main sources of airborne PM in rabbit farms. Major elements found in rabbit airborne PM were S, Ca, Mg, Na and Cl. Bacterial concentrations ranged from 1.7×104 to 1.6×106 colony forming units (CFU)/m3 (TSP); from 3.6×103 to 3.0×104 CFU/m3 (PM10); and from 3.1×103 to 1.6×104 CFU/m3 (PM2.5). Our results will improve the knowledge on essential particle characteristics necessary to understand PM’s origin in rabbit farms and contribute to its reduction.
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