Background The prolonged use of biomass fuels and exposure to traffic related air pollution has been shown to increase the risk of developing adverse reproductive outcomes. Informal street traders are exposed on a daily basis to traffic emissions and biomass fuel smoke containing a variety of pollutants, ranging from carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide and particulate matter.
Aim The main aim of this study was to compare the reproductive outcomes among street traders exposed to pollutants from their work-related activities and traders without such exposure.
Methods A cross-sectional study was conducted among 305 female traders selected from exposed and non-exposed areas within the Warwick Junction trading hub, located in the centre of the city, Durban, South Africa. Validated reproductive questionnaires and clinical assessments were conducted on all participants. Adverse reproductive outcomes such as low birth weight, spontaneous abortions and infertility were assessed. Traders who were pregnant while working at WWJ were analysed for adverse reproductive outcomes (n = 120).
Results The mean age of the traders were 43.6 years (SD:12.1) who were single and worked in WWJ for an average of 14 years. There were 876 pregnancies reported in the in the total sample. Traders pregnant while working in WWJ accounted for 120 pregnancies There was an increased risk of exposed traders having a low birth weight infant as compared to non-exposed traders (OR = 3.7; CI: 1.8, 7.6). Exposed traders were also almost 3 times more likely to be infertile as compared to non-exposed traders (OR = 2.6; CI: 1.6, 4.3).
Conclusions Working as a street trader may have a causal association with developing adverse reproductive outcomes in females. The use of biomass fuels and working and working in dusty environments whilst trading may have increased risk of developing adverse reproductive outcomes.
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