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All nursing faculty should be aware of one of the most recently identified consequences of occupational exposure for nurses. Regular exposure to hospital cleaning products and disinfectants significantly increase this risk of nurses developing asthma, as reported in Occupational and Environmental Medicine (1). Information was obtained from 3,650 healthcare professionals including 941 nurses who work in Texas. Nurses who regularly cleaned surgical instruments were found to be 67% more likely to report being diagnosed with asthma. Additionally, nurses regularly exposed to general cleaning products and disinfectants were 57%were more likely to report asthma symptoms and had a 67% increase in risk for being diagnosed with asthma.


Hospitals included in the study were using specific cleaning products known to be potentially strong respiratory irritants or respiratory sensitizers. Hazardous products identified included topical cleansers and antiseptics used to clean skin, glutaradldehyde for cold sterilization of medical instruments, general purpose cleansers, and bleach.


The authors of this study note that substituting environmentally friendly green cleaning agents and using appropriate personal care protection could help minimize occupational exposure for nurses. Nursing faculty need to assist our students in identifying these "environmentally friendly" cleaning agents as well as emphasize methods to decrease occupational exposures.


Source: Medical News Today. Hospital Cleaning Products and Disinfectants boost nurses' asthma risk. Available at: Accessed on January 21, 2009.