May 2001 update - compiled by Helane Shields - prepared for WWW by ESRA


Oft-repeated waste industry myths are that sewage workers don't get sick from exposure to sludge, and the symptoms suffered by neighbors of sludge sites are "psychosomatic" . In 1998 the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) issued Health Hazard Evaluation Report No. 98-0118-2748 regarding pathogenic bioaerosols emitted by sewage sludge.
NIOSH noted sludge workers reported abdominal cramps, loose bowel movements, intermittent episodes of various gastrointestinal symptoms, abdominal cramping and headaches.
NIOSH concluded: The detection of enteric bacteria in the air and bulk samples collected in this HHE confirms the potential for sewage workers to be occupationally exposed to organisms which have been associated with gastrointestinal symptoms/illnesses.

"The total bacterial concentrations detected in the air were similar to those found in the one study of airborne microorganisms from land application of sewage sludge."
"The three single CFU plates grew Burkholderia, Aeromonas-like, and Klebsiella-like bacteria (identified to genus level). The multi-CIFU plate grew Burkholderia and Enterobacter agglomerans. All of these are Gram-negative bacteria. Bacteria in the Burkholderia genus and Enterobacter agglomerans are opportunistic human pathogens (immunocompromised persons are more susceptible to these organisms)."

"While the specific component(s) of the sewage sludge responsible for the employees' symptoms have not been determined, the nature and timing of the symptoms suggest occupational exposure by inhalation or ingestion of the biosolids as a probable cause."

"The environmental monitoring data show that contaminated aerosols may be produced during the work process; the potential for respiratory exposures also exists ......

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