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Occupational asthmagens among domestic and industrial cleaners: a qualitative study.

Arif-AA; Hughs-PC; Delclos-GL
Ann Epidemiol 2007 Sep; 17(9):733-734
Purpose: Despite being a large part of the workforce, cleaners remained a relatively understudied occupational group in the U.S. The potential adverse respiratory health effects of work-related exposure to cleaning agents have not been widely recognized. The objective of this focus group study was to identify and characterize occupational exposures and job tasks among domestic and industrial cleaners. Methods: Twelve separate focus group sessions, six in Lubbock, Texas and six in Houston, Texas were conducted. Each focus group session was made up of six to ten participants. A bilingual study member of the research team, experienced in conducting focus group interviews, served as facilitator for all 12 sessions. Participants were asked about their job tasks, type of products they use to clean, job training, and work environment. The focus group data were analyzed using content analysis and open coding. Results A total of 99 subjects participated in twelve focus group sessions: 43 attended in Lubbock and 56 in Houston for the overall participation rate of 66%. Their mean age was 43.2 years (SD=11.9). The majority were Hispanic (61%), female (88%), non-smokers (62%) and had worked as cleaners for a mean of 9.6 years (SD=8.5). Participants reported using a total of 66 different cleaning products to clean residential, industrial, and commercial zones. From these 66 cleaning products, a total of 48 different respiratory irritants and sensitizers were identified. The majority of domestic cleaners reported adverse respiratory symptoms including congestion, coughing, nausea, and trouble breathing, as compared to the industrial cleaners. Reports of eye irritation were also common among domestic cleaners. Three general themes emerged regarding cleaning professionals' work experiences: a) job training; b) chemical exposure and use; and c) competence. Domestic cleaners demonstrated significant skills deficit among across each of these three themes as compared to industrial cleaners. Conclusion: This qualitative study suggests that domestic cleaners may be at increased risk of exposures that may have potential adverse respiratory health effects.
Cleaning-compounds; Humans; Housekeeping-products; Housekeeping-personnel; Men; Women; Chemical-reactions; Chemical-properties; Chemical-structure; Exposure-levels; Exposure-limits; Respiratory-infections; Respiratory-system-disorders; Irritants; Pulmonary-function; Pulmonary-system; Pulmonary-system-disorders; Sociological-factors; Age-groups
Ahmed A. Arif, M.D., Ph.D., Department of Public Health Sciences, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, 920 I University City Blvd, CHHS Building 429, Charlotte, NC 28223
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Annals of Epidemiology
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Texas Tech University, Health Sciences Center