Informal recycling and occupational health in Santo André, Brazil

Jutta Gutberlet, Angela M. Baeder
  • Article Title: Informal recycling and occupational health in Santo André, Brazil
  • Title of Journal: International Journal of Environmental Health Research
  • Vol #: 18
  • Issue #: 1

Abstract: The collection of recyclables is a widespread activity among urban poor, particularly in countries with large socio-economic disparities. The health of recyclers is at risk because of unsafe working conditions, socio-economic exclusion, and stigmatization. Our study focuses on health problems and occupational risks of informal recyclers (in Brazil known as catadores). In 2005 we conducted an in-depth socio-economic survey of 48 informal waste collectors in Santo André, Brazil. Almost all workers reported body pain or soreness in the back, legs, shoulders, and arms. Injuries, particularly involving the hands, are frequent. Flu and bronchitis are common, and one recycler had contracted Hepatitis-B. Policy makers at all government levels need to address the pressing health issues affecting large numbers of informal recyclers in Brazil and abroad. Recyclers need to be involved in the design of waste management policies, and the public must be educated about the important environmental service these people provide.

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