Introduction: Ambient air quality standards are not designed to protect people occupationally exposed to outdoor air pollution on a routine basis. This study aimed to assess the effect of exceeding the US ambient air quality standard for carbon monoxide (CO) on motorcycle taxi drivers respiratory health.
Methods: A cross-sectional study of 85 current motorcycle taxi drivers with at least 5 years of job tenure in Cotonou (Benin) was conducted. Personal CO was measured with a portable CO data logger for 8 hours per day during working hours. A questionnaire on respiratory symptoms was administered to participants and spirometry was performed. Participants were divided into two groups, those with exposure to CO >9 ppm and ≤9 ppm, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) National Ambient Air Quality Standard which is an 8-hour average of 9ppm. 8 and 10 ppm were also used an exposure limit. Analysis was done using these two groups.
Results: Socio-demographic characteristics were well balanced between the two study groups. The drivers with a CO exposure of more than 9ppm had non-significantly more respiratory symptoms (OR=1.67; 95%CI:0.26,10.74), lower FVC and FEV1 compared to the less exposed group but they have a significant lower PEF (-10%, p=0.02). When we used an exposure limit of 8 or 10 ppm the results were not statistically different.
Conclusion: Drivers with a CO exposure >9 ppm tend to have more respiratory problems. More research is needed to reinforce this result in order to improve air quality standards to protect workers occupationally exposed to outdoor air pollution.
Keywords: Occupational exposure; air quality standards; carbon monoxide; lung function; respiratory symptoms.