RESEARCH PAPER
Work-related symptoms in sewage treatment workers.
Jeroen Douwes 1, 2  
,  
 
 
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1
Institute for Risk Assessment Sciences (IRAS), Division of Environmental and Occupational Health, Utrecht University, The Netherlands
2
Centre for Public Health Research, Massey University Wellington Campus, Wellington, New Zealand
 
Ann Agric Environ Med. 2001;8(1):39–45
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ABSTRACT
The aim of this study was to investigate health symptoms in sewage treatment workers. A health questionnaire was distributed among 147 sewage treatment workers. Correlating symptoms were clustered using principal component analysis and the association with self-reported exposure was assessed by calculating prevalence odds ratios (OR). Endotoxin was measured in two treatment plants. Personal endotoxin exposure was low (<10 Endotoxin Units/m3). Factor analysis of 29 symptoms resulted in four clusters of highly correlating symptoms: 'flu-like symptoms'; 'higher airway symptoms'; 'lower airway symptoms'; and 'neurological symptoms'. These clusters were positively associated with working with sewage, but only significant for 'flu- like symptoms' (OR=5.0; 95%CI=1.4-17.6; p<0.05) and 'neurological symptoms' (OR=4.2; 95%CI=1.5-11.7; p<0.01). Chemical exposure was associated with 'neurological symptoms' (OR=8.4; 95%CI=1.1-65.7; p<.05). The use of daily washed working clothes was negatively associated with 'flu-like symptoms' (OR=0.3; 95%CI=0.1-0.6; p<0.01). In conclusion, sewage treatment workers develop a large variety of work-related symptoms that are not likely caused by endotoxin exposure only. Good hygienic practice at the workplace may prevent some of these symptoms
eISSN:1898-2263
ISSN:1232-1966