The objective of this study was to assess workers' exposure to bioaerosols in sludge drying units. Simultaneous collection of inhalable dust and airborne biological agents was carried out using rotating cup samplers (CIP 10, Arelco). Sixteen stationary and 30 personal measurements were performed in three drying plants, during summer and winter. Microbial content of air was characterized by high amounts of Gram-negative bacteria, endotoxin, and thermophilic actinomycetes. High differences between exposure levels were observed with regard to workplaces and tasks. Dryers and conveyors in operation were closed, and the monitoring task in the dryer room was associated with low levels of personal exposure, close to background levels. Conversely, cleaning and maintenance of the dryer and conveyors required the equipment to be opened, giving significantly higher task-based personal exposure levels. The fall of dried sludge into indoor containers resulted in high emission and spreading of dust. Mean personal exposure levels to fungi were moderate or low for all tasks. Based on the results of this study, appropriate means of operational control and personal protection are being developed and implemented on sites.
Keywords: bioaerosols, endotoxin, exposure assessment, organic dust, wastewater sludge