Towards a risk evaluation of workers’ exposure to handborne and airborne microbial species as exemplified with waste collection workers

Mikkel Hyldeqvist Jacobsen, Anne Mette Madsen, Margit Frederiksen, Kira Tendal

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Bioaerosol exposure is associated with health problems. The aim of this study is to evaluate whether it is possible to assess the risks posed by waste collection workers' exposure through identification and characterization of bacterial and fungal species, to which the workers are exposed. Using MALDI-TOF MS, microorganisms in waste collection workers' exposure through air, hand, and contact with the steering wheel were identified. Fungi found in high concentrations from the workers' exposure were characterized for the total inflammatory potential (TIP), cytotoxicity, and biofilm-forming capacity. In total, 180 different bacterial and 37 different fungal species in the workers' exposure samples were identified. Some of them belong to Risk Group 2, e.g. Escherichia coli, Klebsiella oxytoca, Staphylococcus aureus, and Aspergillus fumigatus, some have been associated with occupational health problems e.g. Penicillium citrinum and P. glabrum and some are described as emerging pathogens e.g. Aureobasidium pullulans. The TIP of fungal species was dose-dependent. High TIP values were found for Penicillium italicum, P. brevicompactum, P. citrinum, and P. glabrum. Several species were cytotoxic, e.g. A. niger and P. expansum, while some, e.g. P. chrysogenum, did not affect the cell viability. Based on waste workers' average inhalation rate, they inhaled up to 2.3 × 104 cfu of A. niger, 7.4 × 104 cfu of P. expansum, and 4.0 × 106 cfu of P. italicum per work day. Some species e.g. A. niger and P. citrinum were able to form biofilm. In conclusion, the workers were exposed to several species of microorganisms of which some to varying degrees can be evaluated concerning risk. Thus, some microorganisms belong to Risk Group 2, and some are described as causing agents of occupational health problems, emerging pathogens, or intrinsically antibiotic resistant. For some other species very little is known. The TIP, cytotoxicity, and ability to form biofilm of the dominating fungi support and expand previous findings. These parameters depended on the species and the dose, thus highlighting the importance of species identification and exposure level in the risk assessment of exposure.
TidsskriftEnvironmental Research
StatusUdgivet - 1 apr. 2020
Udgivet eksterntJa