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Sci Total Environ. 1995 May 19;168(1):33-56.

Sorting and recycling of domestic waste. Review of occupational health problems and their possible causes.

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  • 1National Institute of Occupational Health, Copenhagen, Denmark.

Abstract

In order to reduce the strain on the environment from the deposition of waste in landfills and combustion at incineration plants, several governments throughout the industrialized world have planned greatly increased recycling of domestic waste by the turn of the millennium. To implement the plans, new waste recycling facilities are to be built and the number of workers involved in waste sorting and recycling will increase steadily during the next decade. Several studies have reinforced the hypothesis that exposure to airborne microorganisms and the toxic products thereof are important factors causing a multitude of health problems among workers at waste sorting and recycling plants. Workers at transfer stations, landfills and incineration plants may experience an increased risk of pulmonary disorders and gastrointestinal problems. High concentrations of total airborne dust, bacteria, faecal coliform bacteria and fungal spores have been reported. The concentrations are considered to be sufficiently high to cause adverse health effects. In addition, a high incidence of lower back injuries, probably due to heavy lifting during work, has been reported among workers at landfills and incineration plants. Workers involved in manual sorting of unseparated domestic waste, as well as workers at compost plants experience more or less frequent symptoms of organic dust toxic syndrome (ODTS) (cough, chest-tightness, dyspnoea, influenza-like symptoms such as chills, fever, muscle ache, joint pain, fatigue and headache), gastrointestinal problems such as nausea and diarrhoea, irritation of the skin, eye and mucous membranes of the nose and upper airways, etc. In addition cases of severe occupational pulmonary diseases (asthma, alveolitis, bronchitis) have been reported. Manual sorting of unseparated domestic waste may be associated with exposures to large quantities of airborne bacteria and endotoxin. Several work functions in compost plants can result in very high exposure to airborne fungal spores and thermophilic actinomycetes. At plants sorting separated domestic waste, e.g. the combustible fraction of waste composed of paper, cardboard and plastics, the workers may have an increased risk of gastrointestinal symptoms and irritation of the eyes and skin. At such plants the bioaerosol exposure levels are in general low, but at some work tasks, e.g. manual sorting and work near the balers, exposure levels may occasionally be high enough to be potentially harmful. Workers handling the source-sorted paper or cardboard fraction do not appear to have an elevated risk of occupational health problems related to bioaerosol exposure, and the bioaerosol exposure is generally low.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

PMID:
7610383
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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