London – A study published in the April issue of the
European Respiratory Journal
reports that waste handlers are at an elevated risk for respiratory tract infections. Researchers concluded the risk is highest among workers who collect organic refuse, such as food scraps, on an infrequent basis. The area that was studied, a suburb of Oslo, Norway, separates organic waste for pickup every two weeks.
Among the 25 waste workers studied, immune system cells increased while lung function decreased over the two-day observation period. Although the study was conducted over a brief period of time, which disabled researchers to prove long-term consequences, one researcher speculated that prolonged exposure to decomposing organic waste could result in chronic respiratory symptoms and chronic loss of lung function.