Using bleach once a week is linked to fatal lung disease

Posted

14th September 2017

Research

French study has found that weekly use of disinfectants by nurses is associated with developing chronic pulmonary obstructive disease (COPD). The study supports urgent reconsideration of the widespread use of liquid disinfectants in favour of safer alternatives, including disinfectant-impregnated wipes.

The large longitudinal study followed 55, 185 US nurses from 2009-2017, and evaluated risk factors for developing COPD. A total of 663 (1%) of nurses developed COPD during the study. Weekly exposure to disinfectants for surface disinfection was a significant risk factor for developing COPD (odds ratio 1.2), even after adjusting for other factors that may cause COPD (such as smoking). Also, exposure to specific disinfectants was a risk factor for COPD (including chlorine, aldehydes, and quaternary ammonium compounds). Unsurprisingly, the study has prompted some coverage in mainstream news outlets, like the MetroIndependent, and Guardian.

Other studies have found that some disinfectants are associated with developing asthma, but this is the largest dataset to link the use of disinfectants with COPD. It is important to note that the study focussed on nurses, and other staff groups (especially cleaners) are likely to be at even greater risk of disinfectant-associated COPD. This study argues strongly for rapidly phasing out the use of liquid disinfectants and replacing them with alternative approaches, including disinfectant-impregnated wipes.

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