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Use of disinfectants increase COPD risk among female nurses: study

Photo: Antonio_Diaz/iStockphoto

Villejuif, France — Frequent use of common cleaning products and disinfectants at work may increase female nurses’ risk of developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease by up to 38%, results of a recent study led by researchers from France’s National Institute of Health and Medical Research suggest.

The study involved more than 73,000 U.S. women participating in the Nurses’ Health Study II – beginning in 1989 – and follow-up questionnaires between 2009 and 2015. The nurses had no previous history of COPD, which can cause long-term disability and early death.

Weekly disinfectant use to clean surfaces and medical instruments with products such as bleach, alcohol and hydrogen peroxide was associated with a 25% to 38% elevated risk of COPD – independent of asthma and smoking, according to the study abstract.

“We found that several cleaning and disinfection tasks, such as cleaning surfaces like floors or countertops or disinfecting medical instruments, were associated with increased risk of COPD, so all nurses performing these tasks on a regular basis may be at risk,” lead study author Orianne Dumas, a researcher at INSERM, told Safety+Health.

Previous studies, Dumas said, have shown an increased risk of COPD among workers in other professions in which disinfectants and cleaning products are used regularly, so the risk is likely not restricted to nurses.


“Prevention issues are particularly sensitive in health care settings,” Dumas said. “Indeed, adequate levels of disinfection must be maintained to protect patients and workers from health care-associated infections. Any change in cleaning/disinfection practices need to be approved by the hospital infection control department.”

The study was published online Oct. 18 in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Network Open.

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