From the Journals

Regular use of disinfectants at work associated with increased risk of COPD



A study has found that consistent occupational exposure to disinfectants is associated with an increased risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

“Clinicians should be aware of this new risk factor and systematically look for sources of exposure to cleaning products and disinfectants in addition to other occupational exposures in patients with COPD,” wrote Orianne Dumas, PhD, of the Université de Versailles St-Quentin-en-Yvelines (France) and coauthors. The study was published in JAMA Network Open.

To determine if regular use of disinfectants had a negative impact on respiratory health, the researchers analyzed data from 73,262 active female nurses who had no history of COPD and completed questionnaires every 2 years for the Nurses’ Health Study II. Their mean age at baseline was 54.7. Exposure to commonly used disinfectants was evaluated by a job-task-exposure matrix (JTEM) specific to nurses.

Between 2009 and 2015, 582 nurses reported incident physician-diagnosed COPD. Weekly use of disinfectants was associated with COPD incidence (adjusted hazard ratio 1.35; 95% confidence interval, 1.14-1.59). Additional associations were found in nurses who used disinfectants to clean surfaces (AHR, 1.38; 95% CI, 1.13-1.68) and to clean medical instruments (AHR, 1.31; 95% CI, 1.07-1.61). High-level exposure to certain disinfectants – including glutaraldehyde, bleach, hydrogen peroxide, alcohol, and quaternary ammonium compounds – were significantly associated with increased risk of COPD incidence.

The authors acknowledged their study’s limitations, including the JTEM only assessing exposure to seven of the major cleaning products commonly used in health care. In addition, detailed data on exposure to disinfectants was not available before 2009. However, they added that, because the study has been ongoing since 1989, it could be expected that women who had been nurses for decades had “already accumulated a long history of exposure.”

The study was supported in part by grants from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health. Five of the authors reported receiving grants from the CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH); one additional author reported being a consultant on a NIOSH grant and receiving personal fees from a health care system. No other conflicts of interest were reported.

SOURCE: Dumas O et al. JAMA Netw Open. 2019 Oct 18. doi: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2019.13563.

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