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Title: Assessment of respiratory risks associated with exposure to particulate matter (PM2.5) in informal waste pickers in a landfill site in KwaZulu-Natal
Authors: Dalasile, Monica Ntombohlanga 
Issue Date: 2015
Informal waste picking has both economic and environmental benefits, however there are many health risks associated with this activity. This cross sectional descriptive study assessed the respiratory health risks and dust (PM2.5) exposure among informal waste
pickers operating at the New England landfill site in the Msunduzi Municipality.

Data was collected from 102 informal waste pickers using a validated questionnaire adapted from the British Medical Research Council and American Thoracic Society. Our study population comprised of 66.4°/o women with a mean age of 36.7 years. Women reported greater use of safety shoes and gloves compared to men. Very few participants used dust masks or respirators. Results showed a high prevalence of chronic cough (57o/o), wheeze (51°/o) shortness of breath (31.6°/o) and cough with phlegm (29.0°/o) among all participants. Among those who reported having ever smoked, there was a significantly higher prevalence of cough with phlegm (45.2°/o p=0.02) and wheeze (73.1°/o, p= 0.05). Similarly, there was a bivariate association between current smoking and wheeze (p=0.02) and between ever smoked and wheeze
{p< 0.05).

A random sample of 28 waste pickers was chosen from the 102 participants for personal sampling. The levels and distribution of time weighted average to PM2.5 were calculated during an 8 hour working period. Average personal sampling levels of PM2.5 were very high compared to environmental levels. Personal sampling results showed a

maximum exposure of 431 J.,Jg/m 3

and a mean of 187.4 J.,Jg/m 3 compared to a maximum

level of 27.9 J.,Jg/m 3 and a mean of 16.5 J.,Jg/m 3 for environmental sampling. Mean personal sampling results significantly exceeded recommended eight hour time weighted average for South African National Standard for Occupational Exposure Limit (Republic of South Africa OHS ACT 85 of 1993), World Health Organisation and United State Environmental Protection Agency guidelines for PM2.5, while the environmental
mean was within guidelines.

This study showed that waste pickers are exposed to high levels of PM2.5 while working at the landfill site. Limited or no use of personal protective equipment increases risk of dust exposure and adverse respiratory effects. The relatively high prevalence of cough, shortness of breath and wheeze symptoms among these informal waste pickers may be linked to exposure to dust at the landfill site
Submitted in fulfillment of the requirements for the Degree of Master of Technology Degree : Environmental Health, Durban University of Technology, Durban, South Africa, 2015.
Appears in Collections:Theses and dissertations (Health Sciences)

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