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Keywords:

  • household waste recycling;
  • work-related symptoms;
  • organic dust

Abstract

Objective

Organic dust exposure and work-related symptoms and effects among household waste recycling workers in Materials Recovery Facilities (MRFs) are a concern. MRFs are a central operation where source-segregated, dry, recyclable materials (paper, plastics, cans, etc.) are sorted, mechanically or manually, to market specifications for processing into secondary materials.

Methods

One hundred and fifty-nine MRF workers (91%) from nine MRFs participated. Measurements of airborne total dust, endotoxin, (1[RIGHTWARDS ARROW]3)-β-D-glucan, and a questionnaire survey were carried out. Blood data was restricted to MRFs 3, 6, and 9 (45 workers). Blood sampling investigated differential cell counts, erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR), and immunoglobulin (Ig)E.

Results

Workers exposed to higher amounts of endotoxin and (1[RIGHTWARDS ARROW]3)-β-D-glucan had an increased risk for respiratory symptoms as compared to those with lower exposure. Stomach problems was associated to higher (1[RIGHTWARDS ARROW]3)-β-D-glucan exposure. MRF 3 had a higher (1[RIGHTWARDS ARROW]3)-β-d-glucan exposure compared to 6 and 9, and respiratory symptoms, unusual tiredness, and vomiting were reported more often in MRF 3. Monocyte numbers and ESR were significantly decreased in MRF 3 compared to MRF 6 and 9, but all measured values were within normal ranges.

Conclusions

The results suggest that MRF workers exposed to higher levels of endotoxin and (1[RIGHTWARDS ARROW]3)-β-D-glucan at their work sites exhibit various work-related symptoms, and that the longer a worker is in the MRF environment, the more likely he is to become affected by various respiratory and gastrointestinal symptoms. Am. J. Ind. Med. 43:584–591, 2003. © 2003 Wiley-Liss, Inc.