Waste management, namely, collection, transport, sorting and processing, and disposal, is an issue of social concern owing to its environmental impact and effects on public health. In fact, waste management activities are carried out according to procedures that can have various negative effects on the environment and, potentially, on human health. The aim of our study was to assess the potential effects on respiratory health of this exposure in workers in the waste management and disposal field, as compared with a group of workers with no occupational exposure to outdoor pollutants. The sample consisted of a total of 124 subjects, 63 waste collectors, and 61 office clerks. Informed consent was obtained from all subjects before inclusion in the study. The entire study population underwent pulmonary function assessments with spirometry and completed two validated questionnaires for the diagnosis of rhinitis and chronic bronchitis. Statistical analyses were performed using STATA 13. Spirometry showed a statistically significant reduction in the mean Tiffenau Index values in the exposed workers, as compared with the controls, after adjusting for the confounding factors of age, BMI, and smoking habit. Similarly, the mean FEV1 values were lower in the exposed workers than in the controls, this difference being again statistically significant. The FVC differences measured in the two groups were not found to be statistically significant. We ran a cross-sectional study to investigate the respiratory health of a group of workers in the solid waste collection and disposal field as compared with a group of office workers. In agreement with most of the data in the literature, our findings support the existence of a prevalence of respiratory deficits in waste disposal workers. Our data suggest the importance of adopting preventive measures, such as wearing specific individual protection devices, to protect this particular category of workers from adverse effects on respiratory health.
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