5 Effects of Landfills on Human Health Explained

Effects of landfills on human health are; respiratory, epidermal and gastrointestinal ailments like asthma, persistent coughing, epidermal injury, fungal infection, and diarrhea.

The five(5) ailments listed above fall under the three broad categories (respiratory, epidermal and gastrointestinal) which are also listed.

This article discusses the effects of landfills on human health, as follows;



1). Respiratory Ailments (as one of the Effects of Landfills on Human Health)

Exposure to landfills has been identified as a cause of respiratory ailments in humans.

Generally, the level of severity of respiratory problems caused by landfill exposure, is proportional to the duration of exposure.

Therefore, long-term exposure leads to chronic illness, while short-term exposure may result in less-severe conditions.

However, some serious respiratory problems like asthma can result from short term exposure to landfills [2].

The cause of such problems is mainly pollution. The air around landfills is often filled with pollutants from biodegradation, dumping, and burning of waste [4]. These pollutants may reduce air quality, and cause illnesses when inhaled by humans within the environs.

Bronchitic symptoms like persistent coughing are also prevalent in populations that live or work close to landfill sites.

Other severe respiratory ailments like tuberculosis have been found in people who work in or around landfills. While this may not be directly linked to landfill pollutants, it is apparent that exposure to landfills increases the risk of incidence.

Factors like proximity, age, health history, and smoking status of individuals may also determine the risk of respiratory illness from landfill exposure [5].

Effects of Landfills on Human Health: Emissions and Respiratory Ailments (Credit: Sumaira Abdulali 2018 .CC BY-SA 4.0.)
Effects of Landfills on Human Health: Emissions and Respiratory Ailments (Credit: Sumaira Abdulali 2018 .CC BY-SA 4.0.)


2). Epidermal Ailments

Skin problems are among the effects of landfills on human health.

Workers, scavengers, and residents within the environs of landfill sites, are usually at risk of injuries or lesions. These may result from waste materials like metals and glass, which such individuals may come in contact with in the process of sorting, collecting, or dumping waste, among other activities.

Pathogens in landfill waste may cause fungal epidermal infections. This is especially the case for municipal landfills, or other types of landfills with significant organic content.

The pathogens can be transmitted in various ways, including air-borne bioaerosols, which can cause skin infections on contact with humans [3].

Pollutants from landfills have also been found to cause irritation of the eyes and nose. In cases of landfill fire hazards, or incineration efforts in non-sanitary landfills, skin burns and eye damage may occur.


3). Gastrointestinal Ailments (as one of the Effects of Landfills on Human Health)

Gastrointestinal ailments associated with landfills include diarrhea; which has been found to be prevalent among people who live or work around landfill sites [1].

The mechanisms by which such ailments occur may vary.

Landfill-related gastrointestinal ailments may be caused by airborne pathogens in the form of bioaerosols; which could enter the body through inhalation, polluted water or food.

Food poisoning as a result of landfill pollution is not very uncommon. Leachate which is produced as waste decomposes in landfills, can infiltrate the soil and enter into groundwater, polluting the drinking water supply and causing food poisoning. The results of this can be very severe, depending on the elements in the leachate plume, among other factors.

Nausea, which is a symptom of typhoid alongside diarrhea, abdominal cramps and vomiting, may also be prevalent in populations that interact directly or indirectly with landfill sites.



Effects of landfills on human health are;

1. Asthma

2. Persistent Coughing

3. Epidermal Injury

4. Fungal Infection

5. Diarrhea



1). Axmalia, A.; Hariyono, S. A. M. (2021). “The Impact of the Piyungan Landfills Waste on Public Health Problems in Dusun Ngablak Desa Sitimulyo Kecamatan Piyungan.” Environmental Science. Available at: https://doi.org/10.47310/IARJIMPH.2021.V02I02.004. (Accessed 6 November 2022).

2). Kret, J.; Dame, L. D.; Tutlam, N. T.; DeClue, R.; Schmidt, S.; Donaldson, K.; Lewis, R. D., Rigdon, S. E.; Davis, S.; Zelicoff, A.; King, C.; Wang, Y.; Patrick, S.; Khan, F. (2018). “A respiratory health survey of a subsurface smoldering landfill.” Environmental Research 166:427-436. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envres.2018.05.025. (Accessed 6 November 2022).

3). Nair, A. T. (2021). “Bioaerosols in the landfill environment: an overview of microbial diversity and potential health hazards.” Aerobiologia 37(1). Available at: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10453-021-09693-9. (Accessed 6 November 2022).

4). Odonkor, S. T.; Mahami, T. (2020). “Microbial Air Quality in Neighborhoods near Landfill Sites: Implications for Public Health.” Journal of Environmental and Public Health 2020(3):1-10. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1155/2020/4609164. (Accessed 8 November 2022).

5). Tlotleng, N.; Kootbodien, T.; Wilson, K. S.; Made, F.; Ntlebi, V.; Kgalamono, S.; Mokone, M.; Preez, K. D.; Naicker, N. (2019). “Prevalence of Respiratory Health Symptoms among Landfill Waste Recyclers in the City of Johannesburg, South Africa.” International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 16(21). Available at: https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph16214277. (Accessed 6 November 2022).

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