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APHA Scientific Session and Event Listing

Respiratory Exposure Hazards in Composting

Eckardt Johanning, MD, MSc1, Paul Landsbergis, PhD2, and Raymond Luhrman, MA1. (1) Fungal Research Group Foundation, Occupational and Environmental Life Science, 4 Executive Park Place, Albany, NY 12203, 5184593336, eckardtjohaning@attglobal.net, (2) Community Medicine, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, 1 Gustave Levy Place, New York, NY 10029

This cross-sectional study assessed microbial exposures of workers in four different compost management facilities in North-Eastern States. The respiratory and immunological health status of workers (n= 69) was compared with a non-exposed control group (n= 24). Exposure measurements included: Total dust, fungi (viable and non-viable), gram - bacteria, actinomyces, endotoxin, (1-3)-ß-D-glucan, mycotoxins, MVOCs, metals and ammonia. The health status evaluation included a survey, a physical examination, pulmonary function, imaging and laboratory tests for immunological markers and allergy. Results: Worker exposure (mean): Total dust 36 (0.06-1362) (mg/m³), endotoxins 200 (0-10881) (ng/m) (1-3)-ß-D-glucan 433 (0-17982) (ng/m³); respectively for controls 0.08 (0.02 - 0.13); 0.27 (0-0.54) and 1.03 (0.2-2.9). Mean ammonia levels were (passive (personal) sampling) 19.6 (0- 269) (µg/8h); Ammonia (active (area) sampling) 4579.7 (38.1 - 29789)(:g/m³); Mean Gram neg. bacteria: 3418 (71-27234) vs. in control area: 839 (9-2975) (CFU/m³); Total fungal counts (spores/m³) 13585 vs. 597 for the controls. Although more workers reported “shortness of breath” symptoms compared to controls (25.6% vs. 8.3%; p (2) 0.087), pre/post shift respiratory function (DFEV1%) was not significantly different between the study groups. Few selected immunological markers for inflammation and allergy appeared to be associated with increased exposure indicators. Conclusions: Very high levels of dust, endotoxins, (1-3)-ß-D-glucan and ammonia were measured in compost facilities depending on the location, activity and enclosure. Exposure appeared to be correlated with few respiratory health parameters, although no significant objective pulmonary function differences were detected between the study groups. A possible “healthy worker” selection effect among compost workers was observed.

Learning Objectives:

Keywords: Occupational Health, Epidemiology

Related Web page: www.bioaerosol.org

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Not Answered

Occupational Health and Safety Topics

The 134th Annual Meeting & Exposition (November 4-8, 2006) of APHA