Exposures to Volatile Organic Compounds among Healthcare Workers

Modeling the Effects of Cleaning Tasks and Product Use
Objectives: Use of cleaning and disinfecting products is associated with work-related asthma among healthcare workers, but the specific levels and factors that affect exposures remain unclear. The objective of this study was to evaluate the determinants of selected volatile organic compound (VOC) exposures in healthcare settings.
Methods: Personal and mobile-area air measurements (n = 143) from 100 healthcare workers at four hospitals were used to model the determinants of ethanol, acetone, 2-propanol, d-limonene, α-pinene, and chloroform exposures. Hierarchical cluster analysis was conducted to partition workers into groups with similar cleaning task/product-use profiles. Linear mixed-effect regression models using log-transformed VOC measurements were applied to evaluate the association of individual VOCs with clusters of task/product use, industrial hygienists' grouping (IH) of tasks, grouping of product application, chemical ingredients of the cleaning products used, amount of product use, and ventilation.
Results: Cluster analysis identified eight task/product-use clusters that were distributed across multiple occupations and hospital units, with the exception of clusters consisting of housekeepers and floor strippers/waxers. Results of the mixed-effect models showed significant associations between selected VOC exposures and several clusters, combinations of IH-generated task groups and chemical ingredients, and product application groups. The patient/personal cleaning task using products containing chlorine was associated with elevated levels of personal chloroform and α-pinene exposures. Tasks associated with instrument sterilizing and disinfecting were significantly associated with personal d-limonene and 2-propanol exposures. Surface and floor cleaning and stripping tasks were predominated by housekeepers and floor strippers/waxers, and use of chlorine-, alcohol-, ethanolamine-, and quaternary ammonium compounds-based products was associated with exposures to chloroform, α-pinene, acetone, 2-propanol, or d-limonene.
Conclusions: Healthcare workers are exposed to a variety of chemicals that vary with tasks and ingredients of products used during cleaning and disinfecting. The combination of product ingredients with cleaning and disinfecting tasks were associated with specific VOCs. Exposure modules for questionnaires used in epidemiologic studies might benefit from seeking information on products used within a task context.

Source: Su, F. C., Friesen, M. C., Stefaniak, A. B., Henneberger, P. K., LeBouf, R. F., Stanton, M. L., ... et Virji, M. A. (2018). Annals of work exposures and health.

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