Objectives Cleaning and disinfecting products have been identified as important risk factors for asthma, and are used extensively in healthcare; however, quantitative measurements of these etiologic agents are not well characterized. The objective of this study was to characterize personal exposure to cleaning and disinfecting compounds and quantify the frequency and duration of cleaning tasks performed in healthcare occupations.
Methods Exposure assessments were conducted for volatile organic compounds (VOCs) at 5 hospitals targeting 13 healthcare occupations. A wide range of specific VOCs (n = 15) were quantified and an additional 97 VOCs were identified but not quantified.
Results The geometric mean (GM) concentrations for total VOCs were highest among nursing assistants, licensed practical nurses and medical equipment preparers (GM range: 4367–3809 ppb), followed by respiratory therapists, pharmacy technicians, registered nurses, floor strippers/waxers, dental assistants and housekeepers (GM range: 2119–1501 ppb); the geometric standard deviations (GSD) varied from 1.8 to 7.5 across occupations. The GM and GSD of specific VOCs were also variable across occupations. The average amount of time per day spent on cleaning tasks using cleaning and disinfecting products also varied by occupation with medical equipment preparers, housekeepers, floor strippers/waxers and licensed practical nurses spending the most time (range: 165–110 minutes/day), followed by endoscopy technicians and dental assistants (range: 70–60 minutes/day); the remaining occupations spent on average <15 minutes/day on cleaning tasks.
Conclusions The chemical agents, levels of total and specific VOCs, and cleaning-task durations varied between- and within-occupations indicating that task may be an important exposure determinant.
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