Nurses Exposed to Chemical Disinfectants May Have Greater Risk of COPD Interview with:

Dr. Dumas

Orianne Dumas, PhD
INSERM Aging and Chronic Diseases,
Epidemiological and Public Health Approaches,Villejuif,
University de Versailles St-Quentin-en-Yvelines,
Montigny le Bretonneux
France What is the background for this study?

Response: Exposure to cleaning products and disinfectants is common at work and at home and remains more frequent among women. Exposure levels are particularly high in the health care industry. The respiratory health risks associated with exposure to cleaning products and disinfectants are increasingly recognized. Although investigators have primarily focused on asthma, the irritant properties of many chemicals contained in disinfectants support the study of a broader range of respiratory effects, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). What are the main findings? 

Response: We analyzed data from 73,262 female registered nurses enrolled in the US Nurses’ Health Study II, followed for approximately six years (2009 to 2015). We found that nurses who use disinfectants at work on a regular basis– at least once a week – had a 38% increased risk of developing COPD. We also looked at exposure to specific disinfectants: glutaraldehyde, bleach, hydrogen peroxide, alcohol and quaternary ammonium compounds were associated with an increased risk of COPD. What should readers take away from your report?

Response: Our study’s findings suggest that regular use of chemical disinfectants among nurses may be a risk factor for developing COPD. Exposure-reduction strategies that are compatible with infection control in health care settings should be developed. What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work? 

Response: Further studies are needed to determine adequate prevention strategies to protect the workers’ respiratory health. Potential safer alternatives include emerging nonchemical technologies for disinfection (eg, steam, UV light) or green cleaning. Whether the methods of product application (wiping vs spraying) or the environment characteristics (ventilation, room size) may modulate respiratory risk should also be investigated. 


Dumas O, Varraso R, Boggs KM, et al. Association of Occupational Exposure to Disinfectants With Incidence of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Among US Female Nurses. JAMA Netw Open. Published online October 18, 20192(10):e1913563. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2019.13563


Last Modified : Oct 24, 2019 @ 8:07 pm


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