Odour annoyance and physical symptoms among residents living near waste treatment centres

Marjaleena Aatamila, Pia K. Verkasalo, Maarit J. Korhonen, Anna Liisa Suominen, Maija Riitta Hirvonen, Marja K. Viluksela, Aino Nevalainen

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Waste treatment processes produce odours and biological emissions to the environment, but their health effects are controversial. The aim of our study was to assess odour-associated self-reported physical symptoms among residents living near waste treatment centres. The study was conducted in the surroundings of five large-scale Finnish waste treatment centres with composting plants. In 2006, 1142 randomly selected residents living within 1.5, 3.0 and 5.0. km of these centres were interviewed by telephone. A questionnaire with 102 items asked about respondent's personal characteristics, odour exposure and symptoms during the preceding 12 months. Physical symptoms were analysed by distance to the waste treatment centre and by the respondent's perception and annoyance of waste treatment odour. The residents who were classified as "annoyed of the odour" reported following physical symptoms more than the others did: unusual shortness of breath (OR 1.5, 95% CI 1.0-2.2), eye irritation (1.5, 1.1-2.1), hoarseness/dry throat (1.5, 1.1-2.0), toothache (1.4, 1.0-2.1), unusual tiredness (1.5, 1.1-2.0), fever/shivering (1.7, 1.1-2.5), joint pain (1.5, 1.1-2.1) and muscular pain (1.5, 1.1-2.0). Moreover, the ORs for almost all other physical symptoms were elevated among the annoyed respondents. Reported odour annoyance near the waste treatment centres showed an association with many physical symptoms among residents living in the neighbouring areas.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)164-170
Number of pages7
JournalEnvironmental Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Odour annoyance
  • Odour perception
  • Resident
  • Self-reported physical symptoms
  • Waste treatment

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