assessment of exposure and respiratory health among sewage treatment
MICHAEL B. LAX, M.D., M.P.H., GREG SIWINSKI, C.I.H., Ms., FEDERICA A. MANETTI, M.D., Ms.
CENTRAL NEW YORK OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH CLINICAL CENTER, DEPARTMENT OF FAMILY MEDICINE, SUNY HEALTH SCIENCE CENTER AT SYRACUSE, Correspondence: Michael B. Lax MD, MPH, CNYOHCC, 6712 Brooklawn Parkway, Suite 204, Syracuse, New York 13211 Tel: 315-432-8899, Fax: 315-431-9528
An exposure and health assessment was carried out to investigate reports of illness among pressroom workers at a large sewage treatment plant. The investigation included environmental monitoring and a self-administered health survey. Environmental monitoring revealed several relevant exposures including predominantly gram-negative bacteria, endotoxin, ammonia, and a volatile organic compound. The health surveys showed a very high prevalence and frequency of a number of respiratory symptoms among workers spending 20% or more of their time in the pressroom. The vast majority reported symptom improvement away from work. The findings suggest that pressroom workers at this plant were experiencing respiratory symptoms as a consequence of workplace exposures. Likely exposures contributing to the symptoms include gram negative bacteria and endotoxin. Ammonia and volatile organics may also have been contributing factors.
KEY WORDS: espiratory health, sewage industry, waste treatment, sewage treatment workers, endotoxin, gram-negative bacteria, microorganisms, aerosols, organic dusts.