Regular Chemial Disinfectant Exposure May Increase Risk Of COPD

New research suggests individuals routinely exposed to disinfectants and cleaning products in the work place may face an increased risk of lung inflammation and breathing disorders.

In a study published last week in the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA), researchers indicate the regular use of chemical disinfectants among nurses could be associated with a nearly 40% increased risk of developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD),

Researchers from France, Spain and the U.S. looked at data from the Nurses’ Health Study II, which is a U.S. prospective cohort study to investigate risk factors for major chronic diseases in women. The study includes 116,429 female registered nurses from 14 states who enrolled in 1989 and followed up through questionnaires every two years since.

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The study involved 73,262 women who were still in a nursing job and had no history of COPD in 2009 when they last responded to the survey. Researchers pulled follow-up data from participant responses in 2015 and discovered occupational exposure to cleaning products and disinfectants was associated with a 25% to 38% increased risk of developing COPD independent of asthma and smoking.

A total of 582 nurses reported being diagnosed with COPD between 2009 and 2015. Participants reported routinely using chemical agents on a daily basis to perform job tasks such as disinfecting surfaces and cleaning medical instruments. Among those diagnosed with COPD, many reported having high levels of exposure to specific disinfectants including glutaraldehyde, bleach, hydrogen peroxide, alcohol, and quaternary ammonium compounds.

A growing body of data suggests that 15% to 20% of cases of COPD are attributable to occupational exposures, the researchers noted. They called for additional research to determine whether exposure-reduction strategies need to be implemented in the healthcare setting.

COPD is the third leading cause of mortality worldwide and among the diseases contributing the most to disability-adjusted life-years. It is estimated that more than 3 million cases of COPD are diagnosed each year in the United States.

The condition is a chronic inflammatory lung disease which causes the airflow from the lungs to become blocked. It is also an umbrella term for several chronic lung conditions, such as bronchitis and emphysema. People with COPD often experience persistent cough, mucus, shortness of breath, and chest tightness.

“Our findings provide further evidence of an adverse association between disinfectants and cleaning products and respiratory health,” the researchers concluded. “A large body of evidence already supports an association between these exposures and asthma, our additional findings of an association with COPD incidence urges the need for the development of exposure-reduction strategies that remain compatible with infection control in health care settings.”


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