NIOSHTIC-2 Publications Search

Respiratory effects of glutaraldehyde exposure.

Tumpowsky CM
SENSOR Occup Lung Dis Bull 1997 Jun; :1-2
Previous issues of the Bulletin have provided information on specific respiratory hazards known to cause asthma. This month, our focus is on glutaraldehyde, an ingredient commonly found in disinfectants and sterilants used in the health care industry. Since March 1992, Massachusetts SENSOR has received 4 case reports of occupational asthma in which the physician reported "glutaraldehyde" as the likely asthma causing agent. We were prompted to write this article after learning about New Jersey's glutaraldehyde hazard surveillance project at the annual SENSOR conference in California last month. New Jersey SENSOR has identified specific worksites where glutaraldehyde is used and has prepared a fact sheet for dissemination to them. The annual SENSOR conference provided us with an opportunity to hear about all of the unique and innovative work other SENSOR states are doing; particularly work involving worksite interventions to reduce employee exposures to potential respiratory hazards. Also included in this Bulletin is a brief description of an interesting project involving graffiti removers in California. Case #1 - A 27 year-old worked for six years as a dental hygienist without difficulty. She developed symptoms of asthma one year after beginning work in a new office where her duties included cleaning teeth, taking x-rays, and sterilizing instruments. The patient found she was particularly sensitive to a cold sterilizing solution and a glutaraldehyde-containing environmental disinfectant which she used 18-20 times daily to clean countertops and dental unit fixtures between patient visits. She also reported sensitivity to x-ray processing solutions and to fumes and vapors from "plastics being burned during denture fabrication." Case #2 - A 36 year-old office manager was diagnosed with asthma after working for 18 years in dental offices. The patient had previously worked as a dental assistant, with duties including disinfecting the dental unit and sterilizing instruments. She had been at her current place of employment for almost five years when she developed respiratory problems, attributed by the reporting physician, to the introduction of a cold sterilizing solution containing glutaraldehyde. As an office manager, she spent minimal time in the dental operatory and her duties did not include room disinfection or instrument sterilization, but she mentioned that the dental office was small. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has established a recommended exposure limit of 0.2 ppm (0.8 mg/m3) which should not be exceeded during any part of a work-shift. Respiratory protection should be worn by all employees who may be exposed above this limit or during emergency work procedures.
Occupational-diseases; Occupational-health; Lung-disease; Work-environment; Workers; Occupational-exposure; Respiratory-system-disorders; Pulmonary-system-disorders; Bronchial-asthma; Employee-exposure; Occupational-respiratory-disease; Health-care; Disease-prevention; Airway-resistance; Surveillance-programs; Medical-monitoring; Lung-irritants; Health-care-facilities; Aldehydes; X-ray-technicians; Chemical-processing; Case-studies; Employee-exposure; Disinfectants; Medical-equipment; Chemical-cleaning; Exposure-limits
Massachusetts Department of Public Health, Occupational Health Surveillance Program, 250 Washington Street, 6th Floor, Boston, MA 02108
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