The hazards associated with working in sewage treatment plants are well known, with sewage treatment workers exposed to airborne biological and chemical agents.
Only recently, have studies around the world started to reveal the higher mortality rates, incidences of certain cancers, various infections and cardiopulmonary diseases of this specialised workforce.
HEALTH PROBLEMS AMONGST WASTEWATER TREATMENT WORKERS
Several studies in the US, Denmark, Sweden and Kuwait, returned similar findings when studying the
health and mortality rates of wastewater workers against control groups.
- Gastrointestinal tract symptoms such as abdominal pain and stomach cancer
- Respiratory symptoms such as chronic bronchitis, toxic pneumonitis, asthma and wheezing
- Central nervous system symptoms such as headache, unusual tiredness, and difficulty concentrating
- Cancer in the larynx, stomach, liver, prostate and blood (Leukaemia)
STUDIES SHOW SIGNIFICANTLY INCREASED RISK OF AIRWAY SYMPTOMS, CHRONIC BRONCHITIS AND TOXIC PNEUMONITIS.
Respirators should be used anywhere that biosolids are aerosolized, such as in the aeration and digestion process.
Inhalation is the most common route for chemicals or pathogens to enter the body, usually via:
- Air-stripping from wastewater
- Bubble aeration
- Working near weirs, outfall and aerated tanks
- Dewatering processes
- Drying, compacting and incineration
- Exposure to chemicals while removing debris from treatment plant equipment
BIOLOGICAL AGENTS AND CHEMICAL AGENTS CAN BECOME AIRBOURNE
Biological agents include pathogens such as bacteria, protozoa, viruses, helminths and fungi.
Metals will either accumulate in sludge or pass through into the receiving water. Other possible hazards include asbestos and radioactive materials from medical facilities.