Waste handling is strongly associated with dyspnoea

Niels Ebbehøj1, M.D. D.M.Sc., Niels O Breum2, M.Sc. D.M.Sc., Gerard J Coenen2, M.Sc., Ulla I Ivens2, M.Sc. Ph.D., Birgitte Kjær2, M.Sc., Thomas Lund2, M.Sc., Poul Suadicani1, D.D.S., Uffe Midtgaard2 D.Sc., Helle Würtz2 M.Sc., Torben Sigsgaard3, M.D. Ph.D.

Department of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Bispebjerg Hospital, University of Copenhagen, Denmark¹, National Institute of Occupational Health, Copenhagen Denmark ², Institute of Environmental and Occupational Medicine, University of Aarhus ³, Corresponding author: Niels Ebbehøj, Department of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Bispebjerg Hospital, DK 2400 Copenhagen NV, Denmark, Telephone +45 35 31 60 60, Fax + 45 35 31 60 70, E-mail ne01@bbh.hosp.dk


In a cross-sectional study, we examined the health of the employees in the Danish paper and glass recycling industries. Health was assessed by questionnaire, general health examination, and lung function tests. The exposure to airborne organic dust, moulds, bacteria, and endotoxin was measured by a personal carried sampler during a full working shift.

The predominant result was dyspnoea, reported by 40.7 % in the glass recycling industry against 5.7% in the control group. The measured lung function parameters showed minor but significant decrease in VC and FVC, whereas dynamic values were equal. The dyspnoea was strongly associated with glass handling (OR 14.2, 95%CI: 4.0-50.6), and female sex (OR 4.5, 95%CI: 2.2-9.3). The results were partially explained by variation in the levels of mould, but hardly any other air microbiological air pollution. The presence of 0.5 mm diameter glass particles qualitatively identified at microscopy at the glass recycling plants is an other possible cause.