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Revista Panamericana de Salud Pública

On-line version ISSN 1680-5348Print version ISSN 1020-4989


TOVALIN AHUMADA, Horacio. Health conditions in a population living near an industrial waste recycling plant in Mexico. Rev Panam Salud Publica [online]. 1998, vol.3, n.3, pp.152-157. ISSN 1680-5348.

The present study was conducted in a population living near a recycling plant for zinc and other metallic dusts to determine whether exposures to these substances were occurring and producing adverse health effects. The plant is situated in a suburb of Monterrey, which is the third most populous city in Mexico and the second most industrialized. A cross-sectional study design was used for the investigation, which was carried out from September 1994 to November 1994. Using cluster sampling procedures, homes in two areas were selected¾one exposed through proximity to the plant, and the other unexposed to serve as a control¾until the desired sample size was achieved (621 individuals, with an average of five per dwelling). A specially trained psychology student administered a questionnaire to an adult member of each family, soliciting data on the presence of acute and chronic infections, complications of pregnancy, and congenital diseases among the family members. One hundred twenty-seven questionnaires were administered in the exposed population, yielding information on 596 individuals. In the unexposed population, 147 questionnaires were administered furnishing data on 743 individuals. The sex and age distributions of the two populations were similar. The unexposed population had a slightly longer average duration of residence. The most common health problems in the exposed population were irritation of the eyes and upper respiratory tract, allergies, sleep disturbances, bronchitis, excessive fatigue, skin problems, otitis, and anemia. The exposed population had significantly higher risks for skin eruptions and diseases, excessive fatigue, sleep disturbances, upper respiratory infections, otitis, bronchitis, and allergies. Exposed and unexposed women had comparable prevalences of obstetrical problems, spontaneous abortions, congenitally malformed offspring, and low birthweight. The questionnaire used to detect health problems has low sensitivity and may have generated underestimates of some conditions. Nevertheless, the analysis controlled for several different biases, and thus it can be concluded that a positive association exists between environmental exposure to these wastes and increased risk of disease.

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