The effects of waste sorting in environmental microbiome, THP-1 cell viability and inflammatory responses

C. Viegas, L. A. Caetano, J. Cox, M. Korkalainen, S. R. Haines, K. C. Dannemiller, S. Viegas, T. Reponen

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


Workers in the waste sorting industry are exposed to diverse bioaerosols. Characterization of these bioaerosols is necessary to more accurately assess the health risks of exposure. The use of high-throughput DNA sequencing for improved analysis of microbial composition of bioaerosols, in combination with their in vitro study in relevant cell cultures, represents an important opportunity to find answers on the biological effects of bioaerosols. This study aimed to characterize by high-throughput sequencing the biodiversity present in complex aerosol mixtures retained in forklift air conditioning filters of a waste-sorting industry and its effects on cytotoxicity and secretion of proinflammatory cytokines in vitro using human macrophages derived from monocytic THP-1 cells. Seventeen filters from the filtration system from forklifts operating in one waste sorting facility and one control filter (similar filter without prior use) were analyzed using high-throughput sequencing and toxicological tests in vitro. A trend of positive correlation was seen between the number of bacterial and fungal OTUs (r = 0.47, p = 0.06). Seven filters (39%) exhibited low or moderate cytotoxicity (p < 0.05). The highest cytotoxic responses had a reduction in cell viability between 17 and 22%. Filter samples evoked proinflammatory responses, especially the production of TNFα. No significant correlation was found between fungal richness and inflammatory responses in vitro. The data obtained stress the need of thorough exposure assessment in waste-sorting industry and to take immunomodulatory properties into consideration for bioaerosols hazard characterization. The broad spectrum of microbial contamination detected in this study demonstrates that adequate monitoring of bioaerosol exposure is necessary to evaluate and minimize risks. The combined techniques can support the implementation of effective environmental monitoring programs of public and occupational health importance.

Original languageEnglish
Article number109450
JournalEnvironmental Research
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2020


  • Cell viability and proinflammatory cytokine levels
  • High-throughput sequencing
  • Microbial diversity
  • Occupational exposure assessment
  • Waste-sorting industry


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