Work-related Asthma and Cleaning Products

June 3, 2003
A new study indicates exposure to cleaning products isn't just a concern for workers when they go home at night, but can be a problem at work as well. Some 12 percent of work-related asthma cases can be linked to cleaning products, say researchers.

Cleaning products contain a diverse group of chemicals that are used in a wide range of industries and occupations. The potential of these products to cause or aggravate asthma has recently been recognized, says a group of researchers led by Dr. Kenneth D. Rosenmann, M.D., of Michigan State University.

What they found, in their study published in the May issue of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, was that in four states studied (California, Massachusetts, Michigan and New Jersey), 236 of the 1,915 confirmed cases of occupational asthma were associated with cleaning products. Eighty percent of the reports were of new-onset asthma, while 20 percent were work-aggravated asthma.

Most of the workers reporting asthma were women (75 percent); white, non-Hispanic (68 percent) and 45 years or older (64 percent). Most exposures occurred in medical settings (39 percent), schools (13 percent) and hotels (6 percent), and the workers were most likely janitors/cleaners (22 percent), nurse/nurse's aide (20 percent) or clerical staff (13 percent).

The researchers pointed out that in some cases, improper mixing of chemicals bleach and ammonia or acid and bleach caused the cases of reported work-related asthma. "Employee training and education for safe handling of cleaning products and review of the adequacy of warning messages on labels of cleaning products are actions that would potentially prevent inappropriate mixing," said researchers.

They also recommended further studies to characterize the specific agents and the circumstances of their use associated with asthma. In the meantime, adequate ventilation, improved warning labels and Material Safety Data Sheets and workplace training and education are needed to reduce the number of cases of work-related asthma attributed to exposure to cleaning supplies.

About the Author

Sandy Smith

Sandy Smith is the former content director of EHS Today, and is currently the EHSQ content & community lead at Intelex Technologies Inc. She has written about occupational safety and health and environmental issues since 1990.

Sponsored Recommendations

Free Webinar: ISO 45001 – A Commitment to Occupational Health, Safety & Personal Wellness

May 30, 2024
Secure a safer and more productive workplace using proven Management Systems ISO 45001 and ISO 45003.

ISO 45003 – Psychological Health and Safety at Work

May 30, 2024
ISO 45003 offers a comprehensive framework to expand your existing occupational health and safety program, helping you mitigate psychosocial risks and promote overall employee...

DH Pace, national door and dock provider, reduces TRIR and claims with EHS solution

May 29, 2024
Find out how DH Pace moved from paper/email/excel to an EHS platform, changing their culture. They reduced TRIR from 4.8 to 1.46 and improved their ability to bid on and win contracts...

Case Study: Improve TRIR from 4+ to 1 with EHS Solution and Safety Training

May 29, 2024
Safety training and EHS solutions improve TRIR for Complete Mechanical Services, leading to increased business. Moving incidents, training, and other EHS procedures into the digital...

Voice your opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of EHS Today, create an account today!