The objective of this cross-sectional study was to investigate the prevalence of self-reported respiratory, ocular and cutaneous symptoms in subjects working at indoor swimming pools and to assess the relationship between frequency of declared symptoms and occupational exposure to disinfection by-products (DBPs). Twenty indoor swimming pools in the Emilia Romagna region of Italy were included in the study. Information about the health status of 133 employees was collected using a self-administered questionnaire. Subjects working at swimming pools claimed to frequently experience the following symptoms: cold (65.4%), sneezing (52.6%), red eyes (48.9%) and itchy eyes (44.4%). Only 7.5% claimed to suffer from asthma. Red eyes, runny nose, voice loss and cold symptoms were declared more frequently by pool attendants (lifeguards and trainers) when compared with employees working in other areas of the facility (office, cafe, etc.). Pool attendants experienced generally more verrucas, mycosis, eczema and rash than others workers; however, only the difference in the frequency of self-declared mycosis was statistically significant (p = 0.010). Exposure to DBPs was evaluated using both environmental and biological monitoring. Trihalomethanes (THMs), the main DBPs, were evaluated in alveolar air samples collected from subjects. Swimming pool workers experienced different THM exposure levels: lifeguards and trainers showed the highest mean values of THMs in alveolar air samples (28.5 +/- 20.2 microg/m(3)), while subjects working in cafe areas (17.6 +/- 12.1 microg/m(3)), offices (14.4 +/- 12.0 microg/m(3)) and engine rooms (13.6 +/- 4.4 microg/m(3)) showed lower exposure levels. Employees with THM alveolar air values higher than 21 microg/m(3) (median value) experienced higher risks for red eyes (OR 6.2; 95% CI 2.6-14.9), itchy eyes (OR 3.5; 95% CI 1.5-8.0), dyspnea/asthma (OR 5.1; 95% CI 1.0-27.2) and blocked nose (OR 2.2; 95% CI 1.0-4.7) than subjects with less exposure. This study confirms that lifeguards and trainers are more at risk for respiratory and ocular irritative symptoms and cutaneous diseases than subjects with other occupations at swimming pool facilities.
Keywords: irritative symptoms; occupational exposure; respiratory, ocular and cutaneous symptoms; swimming pools; trihalomethanes.