Skip to main content


Log in

Morbidity among municipal waste incinerator workers: a cross-sectional study

  • Short Communication
  • Published:
International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health Aims and scope Submit manuscript



In order that the occupational exposures and health risks for municipal waste incinerator operators be better determined, a study was carried out in three centres.


A transversal study was carried out for 102 male incinerator workers matched for age with 94 male workers from other industrial activities. Three groups of exposed workers were considered (group 1: "crane operators" and "equipment operators"; group 2: "furnace " workers ; group 3: "maintenance" and "effluent-treatment" workers). Data were collected through a questionnaire and medical examination. The respiratory function was explored and blood samples were taken for biological analysis. Statistical analysis using chi2 or Student's test, and calculation of odds-ratio (OR) using logistic regression analysis were performed.


There were no significant differences in general symptoms between the two groups. Skin symptoms (OR =4.85; 2.04–11.51 for the "maintenance and effluent" workers) were more often observed in the exposed group. An excess of respiratory problems was also encountered: daily coughing ["maintenance and effluent" groups (OR =2.55; 0.84–7.75); "furnace men" (OR =6.58; 2.18–19.85)]. A significant relationship between exposure and the decrease of several pulmonary parameters was observed. The liver and haematological tests were well within the normal range; nevertheless, a slight but significant increase in the white blood cells was observed in the exposed group. Higher blood lead levels were found for exposed workers.


There were few adverse health effects in our morbidity study but skin irritation and cough were more frequent in the exposed workers. A slight decrease in pulmonary function was observed. These findings are in agreement with those of several other studies.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Subscribe and save

Springer+ Basic
EUR 32.99 /Month
  • Get 10 units per month
  • Download Article/Chapter or Ebook
  • 1 Unit = 1 Article or 1 Chapter
  • Cancel anytime
Subscribe now

Buy Now

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.


  • An H, Englehardt J, Fleming L, Bean J (1999) Occupational health and safety amongst municipal solid waste workers in Florida. Waste Manage Res 17:369–377

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Angerer J, Heinzow B, Reimann DO, Knorz W, Lehnert G (1992) Internal exposure to organic substances in a municipal waste incinerator. Int Arch Occup Environ Health 64:265–273

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Boswell RT, McCunney RJ (1995) Bronchiolitis obliterans from exposure to incinerator fly ash. J Occup Environ Med 37:850–855

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Bresnitz EA, Roseman J, Becker D, Gracely E (1992) Morbidity among municipal waste incinerator workers. Am J Ind Med 22:363–378

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Gellin GA (1985) Dermatoses acquired by solid-waste handlers. Am J Ind Med 8:363–370

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Gonzales CA, Kogevinas M, Gadea E, Huici A, Bosch A, Bleda MJ, Päpke O (2000) Biomonitoring study of people living near or working at a municipal solid-waste incinerator before and after two years of operation. Arch Environ Health 55:259–267

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Hu SW, Hazucha M, Shy CM (2001) Waste incineration and pulmonary function: an epidemiologic study of six communities. J Air Waste Manage Assoc 51:1185–1194

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Ivens UI, Ebbehoj N, Poulsen OM, Skov T (1997) Season, equipment, and job function related to gastrointestinal problems in waste collectors. Occup Environ Med 54:861–867

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Lundholm M, Rylander R (1980) Occupational symptoms among compost workers. J Occup Med 22:256257

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Maitre A, Collot-Fertey D, Anzivino L, Marques M, Hours M, Stoklov M (2003) Municipal waste incinerators: air and biological monitoring to particles, metals, and organic compounds. Occup Environ Med (in press)

    Google Scholar 

  • Malkin R, Brandt-Rauf P, Graziano J, Parides M (1992) Blood lead levels in incinerator workers. Environ Res 59:265–270

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Malmros P, Sigsgaard T, Bach B (1992) Occupational health problems due to garbage sorting. Waste Manage Res 10:227—234

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Nielsen EM, Breum NO, Herbert Nielsen B, Wurtz H, Poulsen OM, Midtgaard U (1997) Bioaerosol exposure in waste collection: a comparative study on the significance of collection equipment, type of waste and seasonal variation. Ann Occup Hyg 41:325–344

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Poulsen OM, Breum NO, Ebbehoj N, Hansen AM (1995) Collection of domestic waste. Review of occupational health problems and their possible causes. Sci Total Environ 170:1–19

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Quanjer PH (1983) Standardized lung function testing: chapter 7, summary equations of reference values, Bull Eur Physiopathol Respir 19 [Suppl 5]:45–51

  • Rahkonen P (1992) Airborne contaminants at waste treatment plants. Waste Manage Res 10:411–421

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Rylander R, Bake B, Fischer JJ, Helander IM (1989) Pulmonary function and symptoms after inhalation of endotoxins. Am Rev Respir Dis 140:981–986

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Schecter A, Papke O, Ball M, Lis A, Brandt-Rauf P (1995) Dioxin concentrations in the blood of workers at municipal waste incinerators. Occup Environ Med 52:385–387

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Thorn J, Beijer L, Rylander R (1998) Airways inflammation and glucan exposure among household collectors. Am J Ind Med 33:463–470

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Wrbitzky R, Göen T, Letzel S, Frank F, Angerer J (1995) Internal exposure of waste incineration workers to organic and inorganic substances. Int Arch Occup Environ Health 68:13–21

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

Download references


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, and to Dr. R. Cadot for his blood-lead analysis. Thanks also to our grant sponsor: Ademe (French Agency for Environment and Energy Management); grant number 4 93 0027.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Martine Hours.

Additional information

The authors were participating in the network "Réseau Santé-Déchets"

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Hours, M., Anzivino-Viricel, L., Maitre, A. et al. Morbidity among municipal waste incinerator workers: a cross-sectional study. Int Arch Occup Environ Health 76, 467–472 (2003).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: