(NaturalNews) A pilot study conducted by Massachusetts researchers reveals that cleaning fluids used in hospitals may pose health risks to both staff and patients. The study, conducted at the Massachusetts Lowell Sustainable Hospitals Program and published on March 27th in the journal Environmental Health, examined cleaning materials and methods used in six Massachusetts hospitals.
"Cleaning products may impact worker, and possibly patient, health through air and skin exposures," said Anila Bello, who led the study. "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."
According to Bello, product ingredients that were examined included those known to cause skin and respiratory irritation, such as quaternary ammonium chlorides or "quats", and some that can be absorbed through the skin, such as glycol ethers. Certain alcohols, such as benzyl alcohol, ammonia and several phenols, all of which can harm the body in various ways, were also found among the products tested.
The study was initiated due to an increase in reports of respiratory issues in recent years among cleaning workers in health care environments. Additionally, there is a lack of analytical data on occupational hygiene and workplace exposure, so it was previously unclear which cleaning-related exposures may bring about or aggravate asthma and asthma-like symptoms.
The report points out a need for systematic evaluation of cleaning products and ingredients and how they are exposed in the workplace. The study's objectives were to identify specific product ingredients known to cause respiratory and skin problems, and examine how common tasks might affect inhalation and dermal exposures.
In addition to the effects of the product ingredients, the researchers found that the techniques used with various fluids affected exposure levels, which may contribute to health problems. "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," reported the authors of the study.
Some of the cleaning tasks identified in the study included: preparation of cleaning solutions, floor cleaning, window cleaning, mirror cleaning, toilet bowl cleaning, sink cleaning, and floor finishing tasks (buffing, waxing and stripping).
The study's methods included workplace interviews, occupational hygiene observational analyses, and qualitative and quantitative assessments of the products used in the six hospitals.
According to their website, Environmental Health, published by BioMed Central, is an open access journal "aimed at scientists and practitioners in all areas of environmental science where human health and well-being are involved, either directly or indirectly."