Adverse health effects of exposure to high levels of air pollutants from biodegradable wastes have been well-studied. However, few investigations have examined the potential effects of chronic exposure to low-to-moderate levels on non-specific health symptoms among residents. Besides, most studies have relied on distances to waste sites to assign exposure status, and have not investigated whether the exposure-symptoms associations are direct or mediated by odor annoyance. In this study, individual-level exposures to a proxy indicator of biodegradable waste pollution (ammonia, NH3) in non-urban residences (n=454) during 2005-2010 were characterized by data from emission-dispersion validated models. Logistic regression and mediating analyses were used to examine associations between exposures and questionnaire-based data on annoyance and non-specific symptoms, after adjusting by person-specific covariates. Strong dose-response associations were found between exposures and annoyance, and between annoyance and symptoms. Associations between exposures and symptoms (nausea, headache, dizziness, difficulty concentrating and unnatural fatigue) were indirect (annoyance-mediated). This study indicates that environmental exposures play an important role in the genesis of non-specific symptoms among residents exposed to low-to-moderate air pollution from biodegradable wastes, although the effects seem to be indirect, relayed through stress-related mechanisms.
Chemosphere, 2015, Vol 120, Issue February, p. 371-377