Patients and staff could be at risk from chemicals contained in hospital cleaning products, it has been claimed.
A study by researchers from the University of Massachusetts found potentially hazardous chemicals in common products used at six US hospitals. These included irritants to skin and lungs such as ammonium chlorides, glycol ethers and ethanolamine.
The investigations at three large teaching hospitals, one medium-sized hospital, and two suburban hospitals in eastern Massachusetts also found several alcohols, including benzyl alcohol.
The most severe exposure was found to have occurred when several cleaning tasks were performed in small and poorly ventilated areas.
Study leader Anila Bello said: “Because the severity of cleaning exposures is affected by both product formulation and cleaning technique, a combination of product evaluation and workplace exposure data is needed to develop strategies that protect people from cleaning hazards.”
In the past, hospital cleaning staff have complained of skin conditions such as hand dermatitis, while exposure to cleaning agents is thought to be one of the leading causes of occupational asthma among health care workers.
The authors concluded: “Hazardous exposures related to cleaning products are an important public health concern because these exposures may impact not only cleaning workers, but also other occupants in the building.”