Hospital workers underestimate their exposure to potentially dangerous chemicals, according to a study published online in Occupational & Environmental Medicine .

The study, which was to determine whether self-reported occupational exposure to cleaning/disinfecting agents in hospital workers is accurate, found that while occupational exposure to such chemicals is high, workers frequently underreport that exposure, and many lack of knowledge about product ingredients.

In Methods In the Epidemiological Study of the Genetics and Environment of Asthma (EGEA), more than fifteen hundred hospital workers were interviewed about tasks and cleaning/disinfecting agents. The intensity, frequency and probability of exposure for various tasks was assessed, and the focus was on eight exposures: formaldehyde, glutaraldehyde, bleach/chlorine, alcohol, quaternary ammonium components, ammonia, sprays and latex gloves.

Researchers found that the underestimation of self-reported exposure occurred most with formaldehyde, followed by ammonia, alcohol, and quaternary ammonium components.

“Our results show the relevance of expert assessment in epidemiological studies to limit measurement bias,” they concluded.