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Health care workers risk asthma from cleaning chemicals (5/24)

May 24, 2011


Health care professionals are at risk of developing work-related asthma (WRA) from the cleaning chemicals used in hospitals, according to a new study published in Occupational and Environmental Medicine Online.

In an attempt to identify a relationship between work-related exposure to cleaning-related chemicals and the onset of WRA, researchers surveyed 3,650 health care workers about asthma diagnoses and symptoms and exposure to individual cleaning substances.

They found that that exposure to bleach, cleaners/abrasives, toilet cleaners, detergents and amonia and to glutaraldehyde/ortho-phtaldehyde, chloramines and ethylene oxide significantly increased the chances of WRA. Exposure to chloramines increased the likelihood of a WRA diagnosis fivefold.

“The odds of WRAS and WEA increased in a dose-dependent manner for exposure in the longest job to cleaning agents and disinfectants/sterilants, respectively,” said the study’s authors.

WRA is an important public health problem affecting one quarter of adults with asthma. Although cleaning substances are routinely used in hospitals, few studies have addressed their potential adverse respiratory health effects on healthcare professionals (HCPs).

Workplace asthma was defined as a categorical variable with four mutually exclusive categories: work-related asthma symptoms (WRAS), work-exacerbated asthma (WEA), occupational asthma (OA) and none. Multivariable logistic regression analysis was used to evaluate the association between self-reported use of cleaning substances and asthma outcomes among HCPs.

The authors of the study were Ahmed A Arif of the Department of Public Health Sciences; UNC Charlotte in Charlotte, North Carolina and George L Delclos of the Division of Epidemiology; Human Genetics and Environmental Sciences; The University of Texas School of Public Health in Houston, Texas and the Center for Research in Occupational Health (CiSAL;, Pompeu Fabra Universiy and CIBER Epidemiología y Salud Pública in Barcelona, Spain.