Cleaning Products Up Nurses' Asthma Risk

Disinfectants and other chemicals boost their odds of respiratory trouble, study finds

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TUESDAY, Jan. 20, 2009 (HealthDay News) -- Frequent exposure to hospital cleaning products and disinfectants greatly increases nurses' risk of asthma, according to a U.S. study that included 3,650 Texan health care professionals, including 941 nurses.

The researchers found that nurses regularly exposed to cleaning products and disinfectants were 72 percent more likely than other health care colleagues to report being diagnosed with asthma since starting their job, and 57 percent more likely to report symptoms similar to asthma.

Nurses who regularly cleaned medical instruments were 67 percent more likely to have newly diagnosed asthma, and those working with solvents and glues used in patient care were 51 percent more likely to report symptoms similar to asthma. Nurses who used powdered latex gloves before the year 2000 were 6 percent more likely to have newly diagnosed asthma.

The findings were published online in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

The researchers noted that products used by nurses in the study included a number known to be potentially strong respiratory irritants or sensitizers. These include: topical cleansers and antiseptics used for cleaning patients' skin; glutaraldehyde for cold sterilization of medical instruments; and all-purpose general cleaning products, such as bleach.

"Substituting cleaning agents with environmentally friendly 'green chemicals' and using appropriate personal care protection could help minimize occupational exposures in this professional group," wrote Ahmed Arif, of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, and colleagues.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about asthma.

SOURCE: BMJ specialist journals, news release, Jan. 20, 2009

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