Respiratory function among waste incinerator workers
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Introduction:Whereas air pollutants have been measured in incinerator working areas, few studies have focused on the effects of these pollutants on the lung function of incinerator workers. In France, a study was performed among workers at two urban incinerators, aimed at identifying a link between exposure to different pollutants in incinerator plants and respiratory lung function impairments. Methods: A follow-up of lung function was carried out on 83 incinerator workers from two incinerator plants, comparing them with a group of 76 non-exposed workers recruited by the same occupational physician. Workers’ lung functions were measured during their yearly occupational medical examination, for 3 years. The American Thoracic Society quality criteria were used to control the quality of the flow–volume curves. Results: Base-line lung functions were lower among incinerator workers than among non-exposed workers. The few significant differences were indicative of obstructive symptoms. During the first year the differences observed between the two groups were close to the significant threshold value of 5% for FEF75/ PV and FEF25–75/PV. During the third year significant differences covered three parameters: FEF50/PV, FEF25–75/PV and FEF25–75/FVC. After smoking habits (pack-years), medical history of allergy or lung diseases and the examination centres had been taken into account in a linear regression, the reduction of FEF75/PV in the first year and FEF25–75/FVC in the third year was linked to exposure in incinerator plants. There was no significant association between exposure and the differences observed in the FEF25–75/PV in the first year or in the FEF50/PV and the FEF25–75/PV in the third year. Conclusion: This analysis of incinerator workers’ lung functions has identified some lung impairments among workers exposed to incinerator air pollutants compared to non-exposed workers, thus indicating possible obstructive disorders among incinerator workers. However, these impairments are moderate and in accordance with the low levels of airborne pollutants identified in a previous study.
KeywordsLung function Spirometry Incinerator Workers Exposure
Thanks to Dr. M. Richioud, Dr. J. Robinet, and Dr. P. Panchairi for their interest in the realization of this study and for having collected medical data. Thanks also to our grant sponsor: Ademe (French Agency for Environment and Energy Management); grant number 493 0027.
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