Academic journal article Iranian Journal of Public Health

Respiratory Health Symptoms and Lung Function among Roadside Hawkers in Serdang and Its Association with Traffic-Related Exposures

Academic journal article Iranian Journal of Public Health

Respiratory Health Symptoms and Lung Function among Roadside Hawkers in Serdang and Its Association with Traffic-Related Exposures

Article excerpt


Occupational exposure to respiratory pollutants is a serious problem as health impacts are greater for the group of workers whose occupation requires them to work near roads or close to traffic lights where vehicles are required to stop and leave their engines running (1). In Bangkok, roadside hawkers are exposed to particulate matter with aerodynamic diameter of less than 2.5 μm (PM2.5) of 70.94 μg/m3, exceeding the 24-h threshold limit WHO Air Quality Guideline (AQG) of 25 μg/m3 (2, 3). The hawkers had increased risk of coughing (Odds Ratio, OR=3.63, 95% Confidence Interval, CI=2.53-5.20) phlegm (OR=7.07, 95%CI=5.618.91) and upper respiratory diseases (OR=3.45, 95%CI=2.71-4.40). Another study conducted among roadside vendors reported high percentage of coughing (45.2%) and shortness of breath (54.6%) compared to the percentages reported among the control group (4).

In Malaysia, motor vehicles emission has been recognized as one of the major sources of air pollution especially in highly urbanized area (5). These activities will emit pollutants such as particulate matter (PM), carbon monoxide (CO), nitrogen oxide (NOx), hydrocarbon and sulfur oxides from the combustion of fossil fuels. The average 24-h levels of PM2.5 in the urban area of Malaysia are approximately 20.3 μg/m3 and are within the reported threshold by the WHO (5). However, there are excursions where PM levels spiked higher than the threshold limit especially during heavy traffic congestion period. It is common that marked temporal variations in air pollution were observed during selected times in the mornings and afternoons.

Roadside hawkers are a common sight in Selangor, attracting a lot of interest and businesses from the general population either during the day or even at night. As such, roadside hawkers in Malaysia are an occupational group at risk for continuous exposure to these traffic pollutants in addition to the PM exposures arising from their cooking activities and from the burning of fossil fuels. Although the place of employment of street vendors is not within a pre-determined indoor space, roadside hawkers are still covered under the Malaysian Occupational Safety and Health Act (6). According to Section 15 of the act, it is stated that "the duty of every employer and every self-employed person includes, the provision and maintenance of plant and systems of work that are, so far as is practicable, safe and without risks to health". Thus, such study is important because in determining the levels of exposure to PM2.5 and CO, provisions for further protection measures can be suggested to protect the occupational group of roadside hawkers should they be at risk for deleterious health effects. From the review of available literature, there are currently limited numbers of studies related to the impact of air pollution exposures on respiratory health of roadside hawkers in this country. The limited information on this group of worker population made it difficult to estimate the health effects associated with occupational exposure due to air pollution. As such, a study of exposure to air pollution among roadside hawkers will close the existing gap of knowledge in the scientific field, thus robust suggestions to protect this specific group of workers can be made.

The main objective of this study was to assess respiratory health symptoms and determine lung functions among roadside hawkers in Serdang, Malaysia and its association with traffic-related exposures.

Materials and Methods

Study Location

This was a cross-sectional comparative study conducted among roadside hawkers at Serdang, Malaysia (2°59'35°N 101°47'20°E) in 2015. A stretch of road adjacent to a local university was chosen as a location for this study because of its proximity to a federal road. Convenience sampling was used and 60 roadside hawkers were chosen to participate in this study. The comparative group were 60 workers who worked in air- conditioned restaurants, which are less exposed to the traffic air pollution. …

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