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Cleaning products and risk of asthma.

Tumpowsky CM
SENSOR Occup Lung Dis Bull 1998 Apr; :1-3
Surveillance findings from several states identify cleaning agents as a potential cause of work-related asthma. Here in Massachusetts, more than 10% of the work-related asthma cases reported to SENSOR, list cleaning products as the suspected agent. The Michigan SENSOR program recently summarized data on over 50 cases of work-related asthma involving cleaning compounds. In this issue we present several case reports and highlight some of the frequently reporting cleaning products associated with breathing problems. The term "cleaning agents" encompasses a very broad category of products. During the next year, SENSOR staff plan to conduct more intensive follow-up of cases associated with cleaning products to see if we can identify specific product components which may cause asthma. We will be making efforts to obtain Material Safety Data Sheets on specific products identified by cases. We encourage you to consider exposures to cleaning agents when talking to patients about potential workplace exposures that cause breathing problems and to urge patients to obtain specific product information. Case One: A 38 year old woman who worked as a lab technician in a hospital developed wheezing, cough, chest tightness and shortness of breath within 10 minutes of exposure to a floor cleaner which was applied to an adjacent work area. Case Two: A woman in her late 20's who worked as a laboratory technician performing surgical procedures on research animals, developed wheezing, cough, chest tightness and shortness of breath one year after she began working for her employer. Her symptoms began after she started using a disinfectant which contained hydroxyacetic acid to clean her work area after surgical procedures. Case Three: A 46 year old woman who worked as a hotel housekeeper developed breathing problems within 3 hours of being exposed to muriatic acid. The muriatic acid was being used to clean the pool area and the housekeeper was cleaning the adjacent hallway. Because of the widespread use of cleaning agents in the workplace, workers, regardless of their occupation, may be exposed frequently. Several cleaning agents have been described as causes of occupational asthma, while others have been reported in the literature as causing chemical pneumonitis, pulmonary edema, or contact dermatitis.
Occupational-health; Work-environment; Workers; Occupational-exposure; Respiratory-system-disorders; Pulmonary-system-disorders; Bronchial-asthma; Surveillance-programs; Health-hazards; Worker-health; Occupational-diseases; Health-care; Case-studies; Cleaning-compounds; Housekeeping-personnel; Housekeeping-products; Chemical-cleaning; Laboratory-workers; Laboratory-work; Disinfectants; Acetic-acids; Acids; Breathing
Massachusetts Department of Public Health, Occupational Health Surveillance Program, 250 Washington Street, 6th Floor, Boston, MA 02108
79-14-1; 7647-01-0
Publication Date
Document Type
Funding Type
Cooperative Agreement
Fiscal Year
Identifying No.
Source Name
SENSOR Occupational Lung Disease Bulletin
Performing Organization
Massachusetts State Department of Public Health
Page last reviewed: April 1, 2022
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division