Respiratory Symptoms in Hospital Cleaning Staff Exposed to a Product Containing Hydrogen Peroxide, Peracetic Acid, and Acetic Acid

Source: Brie Hawley, Megan Casey, Mohammed Abbas Virji, Kristin J Cummings, Alyson Johnson, Jean Cox-Ganser, Annals of Work Exposures and Health, Early View, Published: 25 October 2017
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From the abstract:
Cleaning and disinfecting products consisting of a mixture of hydrogen peroxide (HP), peracetic acid (PAA), and acetic acid (AA) are widely used as sporicidal agents in health care, childcare, agricultural, food service, and food production industries. HP and PAA are strong oxidants and their mixture is a recognized asthmagen. However, few exposure assessment studies to date have measured HP, PAA, and AA in a health care setting. In 2015, we performed a health and exposure assessment at a hospital where a new sporicidal product, consisting of HP, PAA, and AA was introduced 16 months prior. We collected 49 full-shift time-weighted average (TWA) air samples and analyzed samples for HP, AA, and PAA content. Study participants were observed while they performed cleaning duties, and duration and frequency of cleaning product use was recorded. Acute upper airway, eye, and lower airway symptoms were recorded in a post-shift survey (n = 50). A subset of 35 cleaning staff also completed an extended questionnaire that assessed symptoms reported by workers as regularly occurring or as having occurred in the previous 12 months. Air samples for HP (range: 5.5 to 511.4 ppb) and AA (range: 6.7 to 530.3 ppb) were all below established US occupational exposure limits (OEL). To date, no full-shift TWA OEL for PAA has been established in the United States, however an OEL of 0.2 ppm has been suggested by several research groups. Air samples for PAA ranged from 1.1 to 48.0 ppb and were well below the suggested OEL of 0.2 ppm. Hospital cleaning staff using a sporicidal product containing HP, PAA, and AA reported work-shift eye (44%), upper airway (58%), and lower airway (34%) symptoms. Acute nasal and eye irritation were significantly positively associated with increased exposure to the mixture of the two oxidants: HP and PAA, as well as the total mixture (TM)of HP, PAA, and AA. Shortness of breath when hurrying on level ground or walking up a slight hill was significantly associated with increased exposure to the oxidant mixture (P = 0.017), as well as the TM (P = 0.026). Our results suggest that exposure to a product containing HP, PAA, and AA contributed to eye and respiratory symptoms reported by hospital cleaning staff at low levels of measured exposure.