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J Toxicol Environ Health A. 2014;77(1-3):57-68. doi: 10.1080/15287394.2014.865583.

Assessment of fungal contamination in waste sorting and incineration-case study in Portugal.

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a Environmental Health RG, Lisbon School of Health Technology, Polytechnique Institute of Lisbon , Lisbon , Portugal.


Organic waste is a rich substrate for microbial growth, and because of that, workers from waste industry are at higher risk of exposure to bioaerosols. This study aimed to assess fungal contamination in two plants handling solid waste management. Air samples from the two plants were collected through an impaction method. Surface samples were also collected by swabbing surfaces of the same indoor sites. All collected samples were incubated at 27°C for 5 to 7 d. After lab processing and incubation of collected samples, quantitative and qualitative results were obtained with identification of the isolated fungal species. Air samples were also subjected to molecular methods by real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT PCR) using an impinger method to measure DNA of Aspergillus flavus complex and Stachybotrys chartarum. Assessment of particulate matter (PM) was also conducted with portable direct-reading equipment. Particles concentration measurement was performed at five different sizes (PM0.5; PM1; PM2.5; PM5; PM10). With respect to the waste sorting plant, three species more frequently isolated in air and surfaces were A. niger (73.9%; 66.1%), A. fumigatus (16%; 13.8%), and A. flavus (8.7%; 14.2%). In the incineration plant, the most prevalent species detected in air samples were Penicillium sp. (62.9%), A. fumigatus (18%), and A. flavus (6%), while the most frequently isolated in surface samples were Penicillium sp. (57.5%), A. fumigatus (22.3%) and A. niger (12.8%). Stachybotrys chartarum and other toxinogenic strains from A. flavus complex were not detected. The most common PM sizes obtained were the PM10 and PM5 (inhalable fraction). Since waste is the main internal fungal source in the analyzed settings, preventive and protective measures need to be maintained to avoid worker exposure to fungi and their metabolites.

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