Professional cleaners have an increased risk of developing asthma. Though this may not be news to the commercial cleaning industry, longitudinal research has finally confirmed it.
Asthma, a chronic lung disease, is characterized by recurring periods of chest tightness, wheezing, shortness of breath and coughing. Though asthma can affect both children and adults alike, it is more frequently experienced during childhood. Adult onset asthma is typically related to environmental factors.
Study Design and Results
The study, published last month’s issue of Thorax – a leading respiratory medicine journal, followed roughly 9,500 UK natives born in 1958. Not including those with childhood onset, 9 percent of participants developed asthma by the time they turned 42.
Risks in the workplace were found to be responsible for one in six instances, which was surprisingly more than the one in nine cases attributed to chronic smoking.
According lead researcher Dr. Rebecca Ghosh of the MRC-HPA Centre for Environment and Health at Imperial College London, 18 occupations were clearly linked with an increased risk of asthma – and four of which were in the professional cleaning industry (and subsequently exposed to commercial cleaning products on a regular basis).
In addition to cleaning products, “flour, enzymes, metals, and textiles were among materials in the workplace identified in the study as being linked to asthma risk.”
The results of this study confirm that more must be done on behalf of employers to protect the long-term health of their employees.
“Occupational asthma is widely under-recognized by employers, employees and healthcare professionals,” said Ghosh. “Raising awareness that this is an almost entirely preventable disease would be a major step in reducing its incidence.”
Commercial Green Cleaning Products and Employee Health
Though the results of this study are certainly eye-opening, researchers agree that more study is needed to investigate the long-term health effects of green cleaning products.
“While the study did not note whether [the cleaning workers in the study] were using green or traditional cleaning products, we have known for more than two decades that exposure to cleaning chemicals on a regular basis can be a health hazard. This study now confirms this.”
Image Credit: Flickr