Inhaling dust particles from wheat straw

Katarina Mollo MEd, RDN, LDN

Q: Is inhaling dust particles from wheat straw risky? I have a horse who has straw in his stable, which generated quite a lot of dust when mucking out. Will inhaling the dust particles from the straw cause a problem?


Wheat straw is usually a harvest byproduct that is left over after wheat has been thrashed and the grain (gluten-containing part) removed. The straw itself does not contain gluten. However, I would recommend washing hands after handling straw or hay, especially before eating, as there may be a risk of cross-contact from any leftover grain. However, I do not think that there will be significant gluten in the air from wheat straw. In addition, if there would be grain left, the gluten is encased in a hull so it would be very unlikely that it would disperse in the air.

The biggest concern with airborne gluten is to avoid activities where flour is dispersed into the air such as baking/cooking or crafts that call for flour. If there is a lot of flour in the air, it could be breathed in and potentially swallowed down into the GI tract. The second issue with airborne flour is that flour stays in the air for up to 48 hours, and can create situations of cross-contact as it settles on surfaces, cookware, utensils and/or foods.

Activities that should be avoided due to potential airborne gluten:

Baking with regular flour

Cooking with regular flour

Crafts that require flour e.g., Papier-mâché

Note: This information is provided by NCA and Katarina Mollo MEd, RDN, LDN, NCA's Director of Education. This information is meant for educational purposes only and is not intended to substitute for personalized medical advice or replace any medical advice provided directly to you by your health care provider. No liability is assumed by the NCA or Katarina Mollo, MEd, RDN, LDN by providing this information.

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