Exposure to microorganisms during manual sorting of recyclable paper of different quality
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National Institute of Occupational Health, Copenhagen, Denmark
Ann Agric Environ Med. 1997;4(1):129–135
Exposure to bioaerosols was recorded in a recycling plant receiving recyclable paper and cardboard from private households (low quality) and from municipal institutions and companies (high quality). At the conveyor belt contaminated objects were removed and the paper was manually sorted into two fractions: newspapers/magazines and mixed paper/cardboard. Paper collected at private households often showed some contamination, and the study was initiated due to complaints of gastrointestinal problems among workers sorting the materials. By using personal sampling the bioaerosols were sampled on Nuclepore filters. The exposure to culturable bacteria and culturable enterobacteria was significantly increased (p < 0.01) during sorting of paper collected at private households. The concentrations of these bacteria were up to 10 times higher than the concentrations recorded during handling of the high quality paper. The maximum level of culturable bacteria at the sorting line was 104 cfu/m3 and the maximum level of total bacteria was 105-106 cells/m3. In agreement with other studies of paper sorting plants the average exposure level to airborne microorganisms was relatively low but contamination of recyclable paper with wet domestic waste obviously increased the exposure to microorganisms.