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Revista Panamericana de Salud Pública

Print version ISSN 1020-4989

Abstract

TOVALIN AHUMADA, Horacio. Health conditions in a population living near a waste recycling plant in Mexico. Rev Panam Salud Publica [online]. 1998, vol.3, n.1, pp. 15-20. ISSN 1020-4989.  http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/S1020-49891998000100003.

This study was conducted in Mexico among residents of an area near a recycling plant for zinc and other metallic dusts to find out if these substances produce various adverse health effects in the population that may come in contact with them. The plant is in a municipality close to Monterrey, which is Mexico's third most populous and second most industrialized city. A cross-sectional comparative design was used for the research, which took place from September to November 1994. By means of quota sampling, houses were selected in two areas-one exposed, by virtue of its proximity to the plant, and the other unexposed, which served as a control-until the desired sample size was reached (621 individuals, an average of five per household). In each dwelling, a trained psychology student administered a questionnaire to one of the older family members to gather data on the presence of acute and chronic illnesses, problems during pregnancy, and congenital illnesses among the household members. In the exposed population, 127 questionnaires were completed, providing information on 596 persons; in the unexposed population, data on 743 persons were gathered via 147 questionnaires. The sex and age distributions were similar in the two populations, and the length of residence in their respective area was slightly longer among unexposed individuals. The most frequently reported health problems in the exposed population were irritation of the eyes and upper respiratory tract, allergies, sleep disturbances, bronchitis, fatigue, skin problems, ear infections, and anemia. The prevalence ratios for the exposed versus unexposed populations were significant with regard to skin eruptions and other skin diseases, fatigue, sleep disturbances, upper respiratory infections, ear infections, bronchitis, and allergies. Women from the two groups did not show significant differences in the prevalence of obstetric problems, miscarriages, or children born with congenital deformities or low birthweight. The sensitivity of the questionnaire used to detect health problems was poor, which could have resulted in an underestimation of some disorders. Nevertheless, various types of information bias were controlled, permitting the conclusion that the exposed population had a greater risk of suffering certain diseases and disorders than the unexposed population.

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