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A cross-sectional study on occupational exposure to microorganisms, endotoxin, hydrogen sulfide, and dust during work at drilling waste treatment plants.

This cross-sectional study aims to obtain knowledge about workers' exposure to airborne dust, bacterial and fungal species, endotoxin, biofilm formation, and hydrogen sulfide (H2S) in drilling waste treatment plants. In total, 408 full-shift personal samples, 66 work areas, 40 drilling waste, and reference (outdoor air and seawater) samples were analyzed. Some workers were exposed to high levels of endotoxin (207 EU/m3), bacteria (3.8 × 104 colony forming units (CFU)/m3 and 9.8 × 104 DNA copies/m3), or fungi (1.4 × 107 CFU/m3 and 3,600 copies/m3). The exposure levels to endotoxin, bacteria, and peaks of H2S were dependent on the treatment technique. All types of drilling waste contained large concentrations of bacteria compared to the seawater references. Elevated concentrations of airborne bacteria were found close to drilling waste basins. In total, 116, 146, and 112 different bacterial species were found in workers' exposure, work areas, and the drilling waste, respectively. An overlap in bacterial species found in the drilling waste and air (personal and work area) samples was found. Of the bacterial species found, 49 are classified as human pathogens such as Escherichia coli, Enterobacter cloacae, and Klebsiella oxytoca. In total, 44 fungal species were found in the working environment, and 6 of these are classified as human pathogens such as Aspergillus fumigatus. In conclusion, across the drilling waste treatment plants, human pathogens were present in the drilling waste, and workers' exposure was affected by the drilling waste treated at the plants with elevated exposure to endotoxin and bacteria. Elevated exposure was related to working as apprentices or chemical engineers, and working with cleaning, or slop water, and working in the daytime.

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