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Frontiers of Environmental Science & Engineering >> 2021, Volume 15, Issue 3 doi: 10.1007/s11783-020-1330-1

Composition, dispersion, and health risks of bioaerosols in wastewater treatment plants: A review

1. State Key Laboratory of Environmental Aquatic Chemistry, Research Center for Eco-Environmental Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100085, China
2. National Engineering Laboratory for VOCs Pollution Control Material & Technology, University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 101408, China
3. Tianjin Chengjian University, Tianjin 300384, China
4. University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China

Available online: 2020-10-23

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Abstract • Bioaerosols are produced in the process of wastewater biological treatment. • The concentration of bioaerosol indoor is higher than outdoor. • Bioaerosols contain large amounts of potentially pathogenic biomass and chemicals. • Inhalation is the main route of exposure of bioaerosol. • Both the workers and the surrounding residents will be affected by the bioaerosol. Bioaerosols are defined as airborne particles (0.05–100 mm in size) of biological origin. They are considered potentially harmful to human health as they can contain pathogens such as bacteria, fungi, and viruses. This review summarizes the most recent research on the health risks of bioaerosols emitted from wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) in order to improve the control of such bioaerosols. The concentration and size distribution of WWTP bioaerosols; their major emission sources, composition, and health risks; and considerations for future research are discussed. The major themes and findings in the literature are as follows: the major emission sources of WWTP bioaerosols include screen rooms, sludge-dewatering rooms, and aeration tanks; the bioaerosol concentrations in screen and sludge-dewatering rooms are higher than those outdoors. WWTP bioaerosols contain a variety of potentially pathogenic bacteria, fungi, antibiotic resistance genes, viruses, endotoxins, and toxic metal(loid)s. These potentially pathogenic substances spread with the bioaerosols, thereby posing health risks to workers and residents in and around the WWTP. Inhalation has been identified as the main exposure route, and children are at a higher risk of this than adults. Future studies should identify emerging contaminants, establish health risk assessments, and develop prevention and control systems.

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