Airway function and respiratory symptoms in sanitation workers

J Occup Environ Med. 1996 May;38(5):522-7. doi: 10.1097/00043764-199605000-00013.


The prevalence of acute and chronic respiratory symptoms and lung-function changes was studied in a group of 81 municipal sanitation workers. In addition, the prevalence of chronic respiratory symptoms and lung function was studied in 65 control workers. There were significantly higher prevalences of all chronic respiratory symptoms among the sanitation workers than among the control workers. Sanitation workers (smokers and nonsmokers) 40 years of age or older had higher prevalences of all chronic respiratory symptoms than younger workers. In addition, sanitation workers (both smokers and nonsmokers) employed for 10 years or longer had significantly higher prevalences of chronic respiratory symptoms than control workers. There was also a high prevalence of acute symptoms, which developed among the sanitation workers during work shifts. Of these symptoms, prevalences were highest for dryness of the nose and throat, followed by throat and eye irritation. Lung-function testing demonstrated significantly diminished forced vital capacity (FVC) and 1-second forced expiratory volume (FEV1) for the 81 sanitation workers compared with control values. These differences only become significant after 10 or more years of employment in the sanitation industry and were not entirely explained by smoking. These differences were smaller and not statistically significant for maximum flow rates at 50% and the last 25% of the vital capacity. Our data suggest that sanitation worker--particularly those with long periods of work exposure--may develop acute and/or chronic respiratory symptoms accompanied by decreases in lung function (primarily FVC and FEV1).

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Croatia / epidemiology
  • Forced Expiratory Volume / physiology
  • Humans
  • Lung / physiology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupational Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Prevalence
  • Respiratory Tract Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Sanitation*
  • Vital Capacity / physiology