New research suggests that nurses who are exposed to disinfecting cleaners while on the job may be at an increased risk for developing asthma.
The study, published in the March 2014 issue of Clinical & Experimental Allergy
, evaluated the relationship between exposure to quaternary ammonium compounds (QACs), commonly used in cleaning products, and asthma among various health care professionals in 7 different settings. Study participants completed a questionnaire about their workplace and had a physical examination. The researchers then reviewed the ingredients of products used at each location.
Overall, 335 of the 543 participants were exposed to the chemical compounds. When compared with administrative staff, nurses had a significantly higher risk of having an asthma diagnosis and of having nasal symptoms at work. These risks increased even more during disinfection tasks and among those exposed to QACs. Exposure to the chemicals significantly increased the risk of asthma by an adjusted odds ratio of 7.5.
“The highest risk was associated with tasks involving dilution of disinfection products by manual mixing, suggesting possible exposure to repeated peaks of concentrated products known to be strong respiratory irritants,” the study authors note.
They suggest that workplace interventions are needed to help improve disinfection procedures.