Respiratory symptoms among Danish waste collectors
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National Institute of Occupational Health, Copenhagen, Denmark
Department of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, University of Copenhagen, Bispebjerg Hospital, Copenhagen, Denmark
Ann Agric Environ Med. 1997;4(1):69–74
Waste collectors are exposed to vehicle exhaust, bad weather conditions and microorganisms which may increase the risk of respiratory problems. This nationwide survey among Danish waste collectors evaluates self-reported respiratory symptoms with focus on chronic bronchitis. Altogether 1,515 (76%) male Danish waste collectors and a comparison group of 423 park workers completed a questionnaire on work conditions and health problems. An exposure matrix, based on measurements of airborne microorganisms among samples of waste collectors with different working conditions, was constructed for this study and applied to the questionnaire data. By use of this matrix each waste collector was categorized according to exposure levels of three parameters of microorganism exposures (viable fungi, fungal spores, total microorganisms). Adjusted prevalence proportion ratios (PPR) for selected pulmonary symptoms were estimated with generalized linear models. Significantly increased PPRs appeared for cough (PPR = 1.3), itching nose (1.9), wheeze (1.4), and chronic bronchitis (2.3). No significant differences in prevalence appeared between different working conditions among the waste collectors. The PPR of bronchitis increased significantly with increasing estimated concentrations of all selected microbial parameters. In conclusion, this cross-sectional study showed that waste collectors compared to park workers have moderately increased prevalences of several respiratory problems. The causes are probably exposure to vehicle exhaust and aerosols containingmicroorganisms.