Exposure to bioaerosols associated with wastewater treatment processes may represent an occupational health risk for workers at wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs). A high frequency of acute symptoms in the gastrointestinal tract among the wastewater workers at a Danish WWTP has been reported. The objective of the study was therefore to examine the exposure of the workers to aerosolised microorganisms. Sampling of inhalable endotoxin, bacteria, moulds and viruses was performed on one occasion using personal samplers. Noroviruses (NoVs) and endotoxin were detected at concentrations that could pose an occupational health risk and possibly contribute to the increased frequency of gastrointestinal illness among the workers and should therefore be investigated further. In addition, positive correlations between exposure to endotoxin, bacteria, moulds and NoVs were found and indicate that the exposure to bioaerosols may be related to work tasks. This is the first study directly showing an occupational exposure to airborne NoVs by its detection in airborne dust.
- Wastewater treatment plant