Exposures and health outcomes in relation to bioaerosol emissions from composting facilities: A systematic review of occupational and community studies

Clare Pearson, Emma Littlewood, Philippa Douglas, Sarah Robertson, Timothy Gant, Anna L. Hansell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

86 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The number of composting sites in Europe is rapidly increasing, due to efforts to reduce the fraction of waste destined for landfill, but evidence on possible health impacts is limited. This article systematically reviews studies related to bioaerosol exposures within and near composting facilities and associated health effects in both community and occupational health settings. Six electronic databases and bibliographies from January 1960 to July 2014 were searched for studies reporting on health outcomes and/or bioaerosol emissions related to composting sites. Risk of bias was assessed using a customized score. Five hundred and thirty-six papers were identified and reviewed, and 66 articles met the inclusion criteria (48 exposure studies, 9 health studies, 9 health and exposure studies). Exposure information was limited, with most measurements taken in occupational settings and for limited time periods. Bioaerosol concentrations were highest on-site during agitation activities (turning, shredding, and screening). Six studies detected concentrations of either Aspergillus fumigatus or total bacteria above the English Environment Agencys recommended threshold levels beyond 250 m from the site. Occupational studies of compost workers suggested elevated risks of respiratory illnesses with higher bioaerosol exposures. Elevated airway irritation was reported in residents near composting sites, but this may have been affected by reporting bias. The evidence base on health effects of bioaerosol emissions from composting facilities is still limited, although there is sufficient evidence to support a precautionary approach for regulatory purposes. While data to date are suggestive of possible respiratory effects, further study is needed to confirm this and to explore other health outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)43-69
Number of pages27
JournalJournal of Toxicology and Environmental Health - Part B: Critical Reviews
Volume18
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2015

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