Prevalence of respiratory health symptoms among landfill waste recyclers in the city of Johannesburg, South Africa

Nonhlanhla Tlotleng, Tahira Kootbodien, Kerry Wilson, Felix Made, Angela Mathee, Vusi Ntlebi, Spo Kgalamono, Moses Mokone, Karen Du Preez, Nisha Naicker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


In developing countries, waste sorting and recycling have become a source of income for poorer communities. However, it can potentially pose significant health risks. This study aimed to determine the prevalence of acute respiratory symptoms and associated risk factors for respiratory health outcomes among waste recyclers. A cross-sectional study was conducted among 361 waste recyclers at two randomly selected landfill sites in Johannesburg. Convenience sampling was used to sample the waste recyclers. The prevalence of respiratory symptoms in the population was 58.5%. A persistent cough was the most common symptom reported (46.8%), followed by breathlessness (19.6%) and rapid breathing (15.8%). Approximately 66.4% of waste recyclers reported exposure to chemicals and 96.6% reported exposure to airborne dust. A multivariable logistic regression analysis showed that exposure to waste containing chemical residues (OR 1.80, 95% CI 1.01–3.22 p = 0.044) increased the odds of respiratory symptoms. There was a significant difference in respiratory symptoms in landfill sites 1 and 2 (OR 2.77, 95% CI 1.03–7.42 p = 0.042). Occupational health and safety awareness is important to minimize hazards faced by informal workers. In addition, providing waste recyclers with the correct protective clothing, such as respiratory masks, and training on basic hygiene practices, could reduce the risks associated with waste sorting.

Original languageEnglish
Article number4277
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number21
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2019


  • Cross-sectional study
  • Informal workers
  • Landfill sites
  • Respiratory symptoms
  • Waste recyclers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pollution
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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