Organic dust exposure and work-related effects among recycling workers

Gladding, Toni; Thorn, Jorgen and Stott, David (2003). Organic dust exposure and work-related effects among recycling workers. American Journal of Industrial Medicine, 43(6) pp. 584–591.




To study organic dust exposure and work-related symptoms and effects in Materials Recovery Facilities (MRFs).


159 MRF workers (91%) from nine MRFs participated. Measurements of airborne total dust, endotoxin and (1→3)-ß-D-glucan were made and cross-sectional questionnaires were carried out. Blood data was restricted to MRFs 4, 7 and 9 (45 workers). Blood sampling investigated differential cell counts, erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) and immunoglobulin (Ig)E.


Workers exposed to higher amounts of endotoxin and (1→3)-ß-D-glucan, had an increased risk for respiratory symptoms as compared to those with lower exposure. Stomach problems and nausea were associated to higher (1→3)-ß-D-glucan exposure. MRF 4 had a higher (1→3)-ß-D-glucan exposure compared to 7 and 9, and respiratory symptoms, unusual tiredness and vomiting were reported more often in MRF 4. Monocyte numbers and ESR were significantly decreased in MRF 4 compared to MRF 7 and 9.


The results suggest that MRF workers exposed to higher levels of endotoxin and (1→3)-ß-D-glucan exhibit various work-related symptoms. The decrease in ESR and monocyte numbers related to (1→3)-ß-D-glucan exposure can indicate that this agent has a blocking effect on the inflammatory response in blood.

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