Cleaning-product-related asthma concern for hospital workers

By Helen Albert, Senior medwireNews Reporter

Research suggests that exposure to cleaning products, particularly those containing decalcifiers and ammonia, may increase the risk for asthma in female hospital workers.

Orianne Dumas (Université Paris-Sud, Villejuif, France) and colleagues assessed the association between exposure to various cleaning products and asthma in a group of 179 hospital workers (136 women) who had a high frequency of exposure to cleaning products at work and a reference population of 545 nonexposed individuals (333 women).

Exposure was assessed using self-report, expert assessment, and an asthma-specific job-exposure matrix (JEM). In the hospital workers, exposure to cleaning tasks/disinfection and associated products occurred at a frequency ranging from 81% to 88% in women and 55% to 80% in men according to self-report and expert assessment.

The team found that there was no association between cleaning or disinfecting tasks and current asthma in the hospital workers, regardless of which exposure assessment method was used.

However, according to the expert assessment method, women who were exposed to cleaning products containing decalcifying agents were a significant 2.38-fold more likely to have asthma than those who were not.

Similarly, using both the expert and JEM methods of assessment, women who had been exposed to products containing ammonia and to moderate-/high-intensity sprays were a significant 3.05- and 2.87-fold more likely to have asthma than women who had not been exposed to these products.

Dumas and colleagues could not make any meaningful conclusions about links between cleaning product exposure and asthma in the group of male hospital workers due to low numbers.

The results show that "female hospital workers are often exposed to numerous cleaning products, some of which were markedly associated with current asthma," write Dumas et al in Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

"This study underlined the need for objective and more accurate estimates of occupational exposure to cleaning products, that take into account the specificity of each cleaning job and task, in order to progress in the understanding of the adverse respiratory effect of cleaning products," they conclude.

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