Work-related symptoms in sewage treatment workers.
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Institute for Risk Assessment Sciences (IRAS), Division of Environmental and Occupational Health, Utrecht University, The Netherlands
Centre for Public Health Research, Massey University Wellington Campus, Wellington, New Zealand
Ann Agric Environ Med. 2001;8(1):39-45
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
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