Cleaning products increase risk of occupational asthma for nurses

Regular exposure to hospital cleaning products and disinfectants can significantly increase the risks for nurses of developing occupational asthma, latest US research has suggested.

The sample of 3,650 healthcare professionals working in Texas, including 941 nurses, found that nurses who used powdered latex gloves before the year 2000 were 6% more likely to have been newly diagnosed with asthma since starting their job than their other healthcare colleagues.

Those who regularly cleaned instruments were 67% more likely to report a diagnosis of asthma since starting their job. And those who were regularly exposed to general cleaning products and disinfectants were 72% more likely to report being newly diagnosed with asthma, and 57% more likely to report symptoms similar to asthma.

The research was published in January in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

Two years ago, a study of 6,837 people in 13 countries published in the Lancet concluded that nurses were more than twice as likely to suffer from occupational asthma than the rest of the population.

Only working in printing had a higher risk, although woodwork, agriculture and forestry and cleaning were also high-risk professions.

The latest Occupational and Environmental Medicine study has suggested the substitution of cleaning agents with more environmentally friendly chemicals and better use of personal protection.

Dr Elaine Vickers, research relations manager at the charity Asthma UK, said the research simply heightened the need for employers to be vigilant about their workers’ health.

“We are actively encouraging all employers to safeguard their employees’ health by reducing their exposure to potential asthma risks. We advise that where possible, solid or liquid cleaning products should be used instead of sprays, and that using as little of the product as possible and opening windows can also make a big difference,” she added.

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