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Work related symptoms among sewage workers: a nationwide survey in Sweden
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  1. J Thorn,
  2. L Beijer,
  3. R Rylander
  1. Department of Environmental Medicine, Göteborg University, Sweden
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr J Thorn, Department of Environmental Medicine, Göteborg University, Box 414, 405 30 Gothenburg, Sweden;
 jorgen.thorn{at}envmed.gu.se

Abstract

Aims: To assess the risk for work related symptoms among sewage workers in Sweden using a postal questionnaire.

Methods: All municipalities in Sweden were contacted and asked to provide addresses of sewage workers and controls. Controls were recruited among other municipal workers not exposed to sewage, such as workers in drinking water plants and gardeners. A questionnaire was sent to the subjects and after two reminders, the response rate was 74% among sewage workers and 59% among controls.

Results: Significantly increased risks for airway symptoms, chronic bronchitis, and toxic pneumonitis, as well as central nervous system symptoms such as headache, unusual tiredness, and concentration difficulties were found among the sewage workers compared with controls. Furthermore, an increased risk for non-specific work related gastrointestinal symptoms was found among the sewage workers; an increased risk for joint pains, related to pains in more than four joints but not with loading, was also found.

Conclusions: The results of this questionnaire survey show an increased risk for airway, gastrointestinal, and general symptoms such as joint pains and central nervous system symptoms among sewage workers. Clinical investigations are needed to determine the cause of the reported symptoms among sewage workers, and further field studies are required to assess the causal agents.

  • sewage
  • diarrhoea
  • airway symptoms

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