Objective To assess pulmonary function and symptoms among the hospital sanitary workers.
Methods A cross sectional comparative study was conducted to compare the pulmonary function among 44 sanitary workers [exposed group] as compared to 57 workers of the administrative departments [un-exposed group] at the general public hospital. An interview questionnaire was introduced to all study participants to obtain demographic data, respiratory symptoms, and smoking history. The pulmonary function parameters; Forced Vital Capacity [FVC], Forced Expiratory Volume in 1 second [FEV1], and Forced Expiratory Flow [FEF25–75] and Peak Expiratory Flow [PEF] were determined according to the American Thoracic Society criteria. The difference between variables of the two groups was done using Independent t-Test and Chi-Square test for quantitative and qualitative variables respectively. Statistical significance was set at (p < 0.05).
Results The mean age was 41.3 ± 6.7, and 41.2 ± 7.2 among the sanitary workers and the un-exposed workers of administrative departments (p = 0.471). Sixteen sanitary workers were smokers (36.4%), while 21.1% of administrative workers were smokers with no statistically significant difference between the two groups (p = 0.088). Sanitary workers had more complaints of productive cough (27.2%) as compared to 15.7% of the un-exposed group (p = 0.158). Among sanitary workers 33% reported wheezing and 24% dyspnea. These symptoms were higher in the exposed group compared to the un-exposed group (p = 0.031 and p = 0.011 respectively). Among the sanitary workers, the mean [predicted values] of FEV1/FVC, PEF and FEF25–75 were lower than the un-exposed group with statistically significant difference (p = 0.0001, p = 0.0001 and p = 0.0006 respectively).
Conclusions Employment in hospital sanitary service was found to be associated with increased respiratory symptoms and decline in some of the pulmonary function parameters. Further research is needed to identify the specific exposures and work tasks responsible for increased respiratory symptoms and nature of pulmonary dysfunction in sanitary/cleaning workers in hospitals.
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