Main content area

Lifestyle and occupational factors affecting exposure to BTEX in municipal solid waste composting facility workers

Rafiee, Ata, Delgado-Saborit, Juana Maria, Sly, Peter D., Amiri, Hoda, Hoseini, Mohammad
The Science of the total environment 2019 v.656 pp. 540-546
BTEX (benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, xylene), benzene, composting, emissions, ethylbenzene, fasting, gas chromatography-mass spectrometry, geometry, headspace analysis, health hazards, lifestyle, occupational health and safety, questionnaires, safety equipment, smoking (habit), toluene, traffic, urine, volatile organic compounds, xylene
Composting facilities workers are potentially exposed to different volatile organic compounds (VOCs). This study aims to investigate the potential exposure to benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylenes (BTEX) compounds among workers of composting facilities by measuring un-metabolized BTEX in urine and to investigate the effect that several lifestyle factors (i.e. smoking and residential traffic), using personal protective equipment, and religious practices such as Ramadan fasting can have on the urinary BTEX concentrations. We assessed concentrations of BTEX in the urine of a composting facility workers. Samples were collected in May 2018. Overall, 25 workers chosen as the exposed group and 20 inhabitants living close to the composting facility as a control group. The urine samples were collected from studied subjects. Identification and quantification of un-metabolized BTEX was performed using a headspace gas chromatography–mass spectrometry (GC–MS). Detailed information of participants was gathered by a comprehensive questionnaire. The geometric mean levels of urinary benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, m‑p xylene, and o‑xylene in the exposed subjects were 1.27, 2.12, 0.54, 1.22 and 1.51 μg/L, respectively; 1.4 to 3.7-time higher than values in control group (p < 0.05). Post-shift levels were significantly higher than pre-shift for all chemicals (p < 0.05). Smoking habits, exposure to environmental tobacco smoke, and Ramadan fasting predicted urinary BTEX levels. Personal protective equipment which included a simple N95 mask did not protected workers from BTEX emissions. Composting facilities represent a significant source BTEX emissions and exposure for staff. More effective protective strategies are required to minimize exposure and related occupational hazards.