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Short report
Insufficient respiratory hazard identification in the safety data sheets for cleaning and disinfection products used in healthcare organisations across England and Wales


Background Exposure to cleaning and disinfection products has been associated with respiratory disorders such as asthma in cleaning and healthcare workers. Safety data sheets (SDSs) provide information on hazardous chemicals that are present in products to help users with risk assessment and implement appropriate control measures. However, they have potential limitations in identifying respiratory hazards due to a lack of regulatory test methods for respiratory sensitisation and irritation of chemicals.

Methods SDSs were first used to identify chemicals on the database as respiratory sensitisers and irritants. A quantitative structure–activity relationship (QSAR) model and an asthmagen list established by the Association of Occupational and Environmental Clinics (AOEC) were used to identify potential respiratory sensitisers and irritants (by the AOEC list only) in the cleaning and disinfection products.

Results From a total of 459 cleaning and disinfection products used in healthcare organisations across England and Wales, 35 respiratory sensitisers not labelled as such on the SDS were identified by QSAR or AOEC. Only 2% of cleaning and disinfection products contained at least one respiratory sensitiser as identified by their SDSs; this was increased to 37.7% of products when the QSAR or the AOEC list was used.

Conclusions A significantly higher proportion of cleaning products contain respiratory hazardous chemicals, particularly respiratory sensitisers than would be expected from the information provided by SDSs alone. Cleaners and healthcare workers may, therefore, be insufficiently protected.

  • hygiene / occupational hygiene
  • occupational asthma
  • chemical hazard release

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