Health problems and disinfectant product exposure among staff at a large multispecialty hospital

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Abstract

Background:

Hospital staff expressed health concerns after a surface disinfectant product containing hydrogen peroxide, peracetic acid, and acetic acid was introduced. We sought to determine if this product posed a health hazard.

Methods:

An interviewer-administered questionnaire on work and health characteristics was completed by 163 current staff. Symptoms that improved away from work were considered work-related. Forty-nine air samples were taken for hydrogen peroxide, peracetic acid, and acetic acid. Prevalence ratios (PRs) were calculated using Poisson regression, and standardized morbidity ratios (SMRs) were calculated using nationally representative data.

Results:

Product users reported higher prevalence of work-related wheeze and watery eyes than nonusers (P < .05). Workers in the department with the highest air measurements had significantly higher prevalence of watery eyes (PR, 2.88; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.18-7.05) than those in departments with lower air measurements, and they also had a >3-fold excess of current asthma (SMR, 3.47; 95% CI, 1.48-8.13) compared with the U.S. population.

Conclusions:

This disinfectant product was associated with mucous membrane and respiratory health effects. Risks of mucous membrane irritation and asthma in health care workers should be considered in development of disinfection protocols to protect patients from hospital-acquired infections. Identification of optimal protocols that reduce worker exposures while maintaining patient safety is needed.

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