Impact of Solid Waste Management on Health: A Biomedical Study of Solid Waste Workers at Dandora Dumpsite, Nairobi, Kenya

Urbanization is a major feature of global population redistribution, and Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), though currently ranked as the least urbanized region of the world, is the most rapidly urbanizing globally. It is projected that in the next few decades the continent will have more than half of its population living in urban settings and this increase comes with several challenges, among which is the high production of solid waste. The management of this waste and associated health risks constitutes a major problem confronting many cities in SSA. This study builds on the need for research to objectively identify the specific health issues associated with vulnerability to poor solid waste management, especially among workers directly exposed to these wastes.  The objectives of the study were to:  (a) Assess the prevalence of infections associated with exposure to wastes among waste workers; (b) Identify and estimate the prevalence of injuries and accidents associated with exposure to solid waste; (c) Explore knowledge and perceptions of stakeholders and general public on the health risks associated with poor solid waste management. This was a cross-sectional study conducted over a period of approximately twelve months. The study employed a complimentary mixed methods approach (quantitative and qualitative) in the data collection process. Findings show that: there are more female than male solid waste workers and this is linked to many work options men have beyond the dumping site than women; some waste workers own protective clothing, yet it is fully established that none owns a full set of protective gears and very few uses the protective clothing they own consistently; there is a high prevalence of infections associated with solid waste work activities and environment within the dumpsite; injuries and accidents reported to be common among solid waste workers include: cuts and injuries, diarrhea, and high susceptibility to Hepatitis B infections (up to 70%). In conclusion, impact of solid waste management on health of solid waste workers need to be a priority in development planning of Nairobi County stakeholders and residents. We identify the need for sensitization and mobilization of solid waste workers on their health and for the Nairobi County government to make the SWM and health of SW workers a priority. Further studies are needed to expand the scope of health risks assessment associated with solid waste exposure. This might include air quality assessment and ground water quality assessment. Such a study would benefit by including more people living in the vicinity of the dumpsite, those with secondary exposure to the dumpsite and sub-populations in non-slum settlements not exposed to the dumpsite.