Exposure to microorganisms and health effects of working in UK materials recovery facilities - a preliminary report
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Centre for Waste Management, Faculty of Science and Computing, University of Luton, Luton, England, UK
Ann Agric Environ Med. 1997;4(1):137-141
The aim of this research was to identify issues concerning air quality and health effects associated with organic dusts and related to household waste recycling within two Materials Recovery Facilities (MRFs) in the UK. MRFs receive household and commercial waste collected for recycling and prepare them as secondary raw materials by sorting and baling marketable categories. Air quality monitoring for viable fungi, bacteria and Gram-negative bacteria and total dust was carried out over a year at two MRFs in the UK. Peak flow measurements and questionnaires to detect symptoms of organic dust exposure were also used. Initial air quality results showed levels of bacteria and fungi up to 2.0×105 cfu/m3 with the Andersen Sampler, and personal sampling reached 3.8×105 cfu/m3 with total dust levels up to 18 mg/m3. Of 39 operatives 10 participated in peak flow monitoring. Almost all of these individuals showed some variability, particularly when changing jobs within MRFs, and two operatives showed decreases of more than 100 l/min in relation to their work. Of 39 operatives questioned at two MRFs 51% reported nasal irritation, 38% throat irritation, 21% of eye irritation, 38% dry cough, 31% joint pains and 38% complained of tiredness. However, it is difficult to attribute these results to the working environment, but it is thought they indicate operatives can experience effects on their health whilst working in MRFs, and that this is an issue which needs addressing by all management levels.
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