US Researchers Link Disinfectant To Hospital Staff Health Problems

US researchers have warned that cleaning products, containing a mixture of hydrogen peroxide (HP), peracetic acid (PAA) and acetic acid (AA), can trigger eye irritation and breathing problems, even at low exposure levels.

Their study observed chronic health problems in cleaning staff at a US hospital, where a new sporicidal product containing the three substances was introduced 16 months prior. It linked acute nasal and eye irritation with increased exposure to a mixture of HP and PAA, as well as the total mixture of HP, PAA and AA. Shortness of breath when hurrying on level ground or walking uphill was also associated with increased exposure to the mixture.

Cleaning and disinfecting products, consisting of a mixture of HP, PAA and AA, are widely used as sporicidal agents in healthcare, childcare, agricultural, food service and food production industries. HP and PAA are strong oxidants and their mixture is a recognized asthmagen. However, few exposure assessment studies to date have measured HP, PAA and AA in a healthcare setting.

The paper is a follow-up to a report into the three compounds, published by the US National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) last year. The report was meant to share preliminary results from a survey of chronic symptoms, reported by healthcare staff.

The recent paper included more detail, says corresponding author, Brie Hawley. It features additional analyses of symptoms, reported specifically by cleaning staff as occurring during their shift, and any associations with the full-shift exposure measurements.

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