Individuals regularly exposed to bleach and other commonly used disinfectants may be at an increased risk of developing a deadly type of lung disease, a research has claimed.
The findings showed that tasks that involved frequent exposure to disinfectants, such as cleaning surfaces, and specific chemicals in disinfectants, were associated with a 22 to 32 per cent increased risk of developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
COPD is a group of lung diseases that block airflow and make it difficult to breathe.
“We found that people who use disinfectants to clean surfaces on a regular basis — at least once a week — had a 22 per cent increased risk of developing COPD,” said Orianne Dumas from the National Institute for Health and Medical Research (INSERM) in France.
Further, the study found that exposure to disinfectants such as glutaraldehyde — used for medical instruments –, bleach, hydrogen peroxide, alcohol and quaternary ammonium compounds (known as “quats”, mainly used for low-level disinfection of surfaces such as floors and furniture) were associated with an increased risk of COPD of between 24 per cent to 32 per cent.
For the study, presented at the European Respiratory Society International Congress in Milan, the team analysed data from 55,185 female nurses, who were followed from 2009, for approximately eight years until May 2017.
During that time 663 nurses were diagnosed with COPD.
Previous studies have linked exposure to disinfectants with breathing problems such as asthma among healthcare workers.
“Our findings provide further evidence of the effects of exposure to disinfectants on respiratory problems, and highlight the urgency of integrating occupational health considerations into guidelines for cleaning and disinfection in healthcare settings such as hospitals.
The everyday use of bleach currently has no specific health guidelines, but the researchers hope the study will prompt investigation.