Assessment of waste workers occupational risk to microbial agents and cytotoxic effects of mixed contaminants present in the air of waste truck cabin and ventilation filters

Genevieve Marchand, Loïc Wingert, Carla Viegas, Liliana Caetano, Susana Viegas, Magdalena Twaruzek, Nancy Lacombe, Delphine Lanoie, Isabelle Valois, Francois Gouin, Ewelina Soszczyńska, Robert Kosicki, Marta Dias, Maximilien Debia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Workers in the waste-processing industry are potentially exposed to high concentrations of biological contaminants, leading to respiratory and digestive problems and skin irritations. However, few data on the exposure of waste collection truck (WCT) drivers are available. The goal was to document the microbial risk of the waste collection truck (WCT) workers while in the vehicle cab. Long-period sampling using the truck air filters (CAF) and short time ambient air sampling in the cab were used. The potential release of microbial particles from CAFs was also investigated since it could contribute to the microbial load of the cabin air. A combination of analytical methods also helped assess the complex mixture of the biological agents. Aspergillus sections Fumigati and Flavi, E. coli, Enterobacter spp. and Legionella spp. were detected in the CAF of trucks collecting three types of waste. The highest levels of bacteria and fungi were found in the CAF from organic WCT. The highest endotoxin concentrations in CAF were 300 EU/cm2. Most of the CAF showed cytotoxic effects on both lung cells and hepatocytes. Only one mycotoxin was detected in a CAF. The maximal concentrations in the ambient WCT air varied according to the type of waste collected. The highest proportion (84%) of the air samples without cytotoxic effects on the lungs cells was for the recyclable material WCTs. The results revealed the potential microbial risk to workers from a complex mixture of bio-contaminants in the cabs of vehicles collecting all types of waste. The sustained cytotoxic effect indicates the potential adverse health-related impact of mixed contaminants (biological and non-biological) for the workers. Overall, this study highlights the benefits of using complementary sampling strategy and combined analytical methods for a the assessment of the microbial risk in work environments and the need to implement protective measures for the workers. Implications: Exposure to microbial agents is a well-known occupational hazard in the waste management sector. No previous study had evaluated the cytotoxicity of ambient air and ventilation filters to document worker exposure to a combination of contaminants during waste collection. This research confirms the usefulness of ventilation filters for long-term characterization of exposure to infectious agents, azole-resistant fungi, coliform bacteria and mycotoxin. Overall, this study highlights the importance of using several sampling and analysis methods for a comprehensive assessment of microbial risk in work environments, as well as the need to implement appropriate protective measures for collection workers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)145-162
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of the Air and Waste Management Association
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2024


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