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A respiratory health survey of a subsurface smoldering landfill

Kret, Jennifer, Dalidowitz Dame, Lara, Tutlam, Nhial, DeClue, Richard W., Schmidt, Spring, Donaldson, Kate, Lewis, Roger, Rigdon, Steven E., Davis, Shameka, Zelicoff, Alan, King, Christopher, Wang, Ying, Patrick, Sarah, Khan, Faisal
Environmental research 2018 v.166 pp. 427-436
air pollution, asthma, dyspnea, health surveys, households, interviews, landfills, off odors, people, psychological stress, Missouri
In late 2010, a subsurface smoldering event was detected in the Bridgeton Sanitary Landfill in St. Louis County, Missouri. This was followed by complaints from nearby residents of foul odors emanating from the landfill. In 2016 a health survey was conducted of residents near the landfill and, as a comparison, other regions of St. Louis County. The survey was a two-stage cluster sample, where the first stage was census blocks, and the second stage was households within the census blocks. The health survey, which was conducted by face-to-face interviews of residents both near the landfill and away from the landfill, focused mainly on respiratory symptoms and diseases such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The differences in the prevalence of asthma (26.7%, 95% CI 19.8–34.1 landfill vs 24.7%, 95% CI 15.7–33.6 comparison) and COPD (13.7%, 95% CI 7.2–20.3 landfill vs 12.5%, 95% CI 6.4–18.7 comparison) between the two groups were not statistically significant. Landfill households reported significantly more “other respiratory conditions,” (17.6%, 95% CI 11.1–24.1 landfill vs 9.5%, 95% CI 4.8–14.3 comparison) and attacks of shortness of breath (33.9%, 95% CI 25.1–42.8 landfill vs 17.9%, 95% CI 12.3–23.5). Frequency of odor perceptions and level of worry about neighborhood environmental issues was higher among landfill households (p < 0.001). We conclude that the results do not support the hypothesis that people living near the Bridgeton Landfill have elevated respiratory or related illness compared to those people who live beyond the vicinity of the landfill.