CSBE-SCGAB

Evidence of wastewater treatment plant worker biohazard exposure and health symptom responses

Authors: Kindzierski, W., M. Aynul Bari, X. Wang, T. Wetmore, R. Maal-Bared, C. Michaels
Description: Raw sewage ordinarily contains various biohazards (disease-causing organisms and their products), such as bacteria, viruses, fungi, helminths, and protozoa. Types, concentrations and survival of biohazards in sewage vary greatly depending on geographical and seasonal factors, and treatment levels within a wastewater treatment plant (WWTP). A review was undertaken to identify evidence of biohazard exposures and health symptom responses in WWTP workers who may be at increased occupational risk compared to the general population. Studies from 1990 onwards identified the following WWTP equipment or tasks as the most important for biohazard exposures: pre treatment equipment (either indoors or in confined areas), sludge dewatering equipment, worker tasks involving water used for cleaning and contact with raw sewage. Twenty eight epidemiological observational studies were identified that compared various markers of biohazard exposure and/or health symptom responses in WWTP worker cohorts and non-worker cohorts for potential exposure to bacteria, viruses, molds and/or endotoxin. Most epidemiological studies comparing self reported and/or actual health symptoms of WWTP workers to those of non exposed controls do not show evidence of causality of health symptoms and/or biomarkers of biohazards commonly found in sewage and/or their findings indicate that occupational health risks to WWTP workers are small. Instances where evidence of causality is suggested tend to be based on self reported outcomes. Caution is acknowledged in interpreting studies suggesting causality of self-reported symptoms because these studies can be influenced by awareness bias of subjects. Equipment, processes and work tasks associated with bioaerosol emissions and worker exposure controls at WWTPs are also discussed.
Keywords: Biohazard, wastewater collection and treatment, occupational risk
Technical field: Building Systems Engineering
Conference name: CSBE/SCGAB 2015 Annual Conference, Edmonton, AB, 5-8 July 2015.
Session name: Biosystem Management III - Structures and Environment
Citation: Kindzierski, W., M. Aynul Bari, X. Wang, T. Wetmore, R. Maal-Bared, C. Michaels. 2015. Evidence of wastewater treatment plant worker biohazard exposure and health symptom responses. CSBE/SCGAB 2015 Annual Conference, Edmonton, AB, 5-8 July 2015.
Publisher: Canadian Society for Bioengineering
Date: 2015-07-05
Publication type:
  • Technical conference
Type: Text.Article
Identifier: CSBE15090
Coverage: Canada
Language 1: en
Rights: Canadian Society for Bioengineering

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