About Breeder's Lung
by John Vance

I flew racing pigeons from about 1989 - 1992, when I discovered that I had Breeder's Lung. For two years before this diagnosis, I suffered from shortness of breath, cold chills and sweats (flu like symptoms). When I found out what was causing my problems, I immediately found homes for my birds and closed up the lofts. Within two weeks of discontinuing all contact with the birds all my symptoms were gone.

In 2000, I decided to again begin in racing pigeons, only now, I had done some research on Breeder's Lung and had a plan for minimizing my exposure. Below is the system I use to manage my breeder's lung sensitivity. I hope that some or all of these pre-cautions are of use to you.

I have a set of clothes that I only wear in the loft and I leave them in the utility room which is just off the back door of the house. When I am going into the loft, I put on these clothes and I take them off before I go into the house. I use the same procedure with a pair of boots that are never brought into the house.

One of the problems I had with Breeder's Lung was that over the years I had tracked pigeon bloom into the house because I wore the same clothes in and out of the loft. This allowed small amounts of the dust to be on the couch and upholstered chairs. So, when I would come in from the loft, I would have on the same clothes and I would be sitting in a chair already possessing some pigeon dust. This made my contact with the stuff near 24 hours a day.

By leaving the dust out of the house (Special clothes and boots) I have a dust free zone in the house and so my contact is limited to only when I am in the clothes (in the loft).

By the way, I wear a long sleeve shirt in the loft and I put an old T-shirt over my head to keep the dust off my hair. Also, I have a pair of socks that I wear only in the loft (anything to keep the dust out of the house). When I come into the house, I wash my face and hands to remove any dust.

Finally, I wear a mask when I am in the loft. You will probably have to go to an Industrial Supply and Safety store to get this item. It is a 3M 6000 Half Face piece Respirator. I use pink cloth type canisters that screw onto the mask and filter the air particles. The canisters I use are the 3M 2090 they also have the number P100 on them and 11J9075 NIOSH. This is the most important piece of equipment you need to be safe in your loft. I have used the same face piece and canisters for over two years with no replacements. I have a spare in case the original gets damaged or I feel the canisters are no longer filtering properly.

One other thing I did was to cut down on handling the birds. I used to handle every baby and every bird on the race team almost every day. Now I only handle the babies when I band them and the racers usually only on the day of basketing. Now, I do handle my birds more than just the two situations listed above but not nearly as much as before.

At the club house, I do not handle the birds when we are basketing for a race. Instead, I am the one that stands at the shipping crates and marks off each bird as it is placed in the crate. On the day we calculate the race I work the computer with another club member. So that no one thinks I am slacking I do more than my share and they all understand that I do not want to handle the race birds. Sometimes I do handle the race birds if there are not enough people present, but I wash my hands immediately after that is over.

Stay away from auctions, all those birds in a confined space will make you sick. My club, did have an auction last November, I had the back door and the front door open and a strong breeze was blowing through the room. Under those conditions, I did not have a bad effect from being in the room with the birds without protective clothing or a mask, but usually if I am in a room with the birds and it is closed and/or the heat is turned on I will get sick.

That reminds me of one more thing. One reason a heated room with the birds is worse, is that the heated air floats up from the birds into your air supply and the dust gets into your lungs and on you. Most lofts are built to pass air from the floor out through the roof vents. My loft has that but I also cut a big hole in the bottom panel of the door to my loft and covered it with wire. At the back of the corridor there is a hole cut in the wall at floor level and covered with wire. This allows the prevailing winds to pass through the corridor at floor level. Now the dust is being sucked out at floor level and not travelling up into my face area. This has helped. My loft used to be nearly airtight and now it is breezy and the additional airflow has been beneficial both for me and for the birds.

I have several friends that have used all or some of the above suggestions with great success in minimizing their exposure to the dust, bloom, etc. that cause the respiratory reaction we associate with breeder's lung. I hope you also have experience good results.