Occupational exposure to chemical carcinogens in Biomass-Based Power Plants

Authors

  • Giovanna Bregante 1Laboratorio Igiene e Tossicologia Occupazionale e Ambientale, SC Medicina del Lavoro Ospedale di Desio (ASST Brianza), Desio (Monza Brianza)
  • Marta Carcano 1Laboratorio Igiene e Tossicologia Occupazionale e Ambientale, SC Medicina del Lavoro Ospedale di Desio (ASST Brianza), Desio (Monza Brianza)
  • Elisa Galbiati 1Laboratorio Igiene e Tossicologia Occupazionale e Ambientale, SC Medicina del Lavoro Ospedale di Desio (ASST Brianza), Desio (Monza Brianza)
  • Marco Pettazzoni 1Laboratorio Igiene e Tossicologia Occupazionale e Ambientale, SC Medicina del Lavoro Ospedale di Desio (ASST Brianza), Desio (Monza Brianza)
  • Paolo Mascagni 1Laboratorio Igiene e Tossicologia Occupazionale e Ambientale, SC Medicina del Lavoro Ospedale di Desio (ASST Brianza), Desio (Monza Brianza)
  • Arturo Baj 1Laboratorio Igiene e Tossicologia Occupazionale e Ambientale, SC Medicina del Lavoro Ospedale di Desio (ASST Brianza), Desio (Monza Brianza)

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.36125/ijoehy.v14i1.495

Abstract

Two biomass-fired power plants delivering 46 and 27 MW respectively, were monitored for a period of approximately five years.

The fuel used at the two plants mainly consists of wood chips from forests and, to a lesser extent, agro-food products, with annual consumption of approximately 450,000 and 300,000 tons respectively.

There are a total of 70 workers employed in the two realities.

Among the airborne chemical agents potentially present in the workplace, those with declared or suspected carcinogenicity were considered.

Either chemical agents expected in higher concentrations (“macropollutants”: wood dust, inhalable dusts, respirable dusts), or only at trace levels (“solid micropollutants”: metals, crystalline silica, dioxins and furans, hydrocarbons polycyclic aromatics and "gaseous micropollutants": volatile organic compounds, aldehydes).

Worker exposure was assessed with "personal sampling”, drawing ambient air in the "breathing zone” of the workers themselves.

The exposure scenarios and the workers involved cover two working areas: “pre-combustion” tasks, with potential exposure to chemicals from fuel (biomass) handling, treatment, storage, preparation, and tasks in the "combustion/post-combustion" area dedicated to the control, maintenance and management of the plant and the collection, handling and temporary storage of fly ash and heavy combustion residues, with potential exposure to chemical agents generated by the combustion process.

The workplace risk factors assessed were adequately controlled both as regards the "pre-combustion" and "post-combustion" tasks, with measured exposures lower than the respective limits indicated by Italian legislation (Legislative Decree 81/08) or by international organizations (ACGIH - American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygenists, DFG MAK Commission).

In particular, exposure to hardwood dust was found to comply with the limit of 2 mg/m3 indicated by Italian Law (D.Lgs.81/08). Conformity was assessed according to the criteria indicated by the UNI 689/2019 standard.

As far as micropollutants are concerned, the need for further investigation has emerged with further assessments of exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and dioxins/furans in the "post-combustion" area, although the situation can in any case be considered adequately controlled.

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Published

2024-02-10