Which Cleaning Agents Are Most Responsible for Occupational Asthma?

A new study has investigated which specific cleaning agents are most commonly associated with occupational asthma development.[i]

The researchers found 80 cases of occupational asthma, caused by cleaning agents, on the Birmingham NHS Occupational Lung Disease Service clinical database – an average of 4 cases per year. All cases were diagnosed between 2000 and 2016 by a UK specialist occupational lung disease service.

For each case that was found, the following patient information was recorded:

  • Age;
  • Gender;
  • Atopic status (susceptibility to asthma, eczema and hay fever);
  • Smoking history;
  • Time of symptom onset;
  • Results of diagnostic tests, e.g. spirometry;
  • Proposed mechanism of disease;
  • Employment details; and
  • History of exposure to occupational and causative agents.

The cleaning agents implicated in the greatest numbers of cases were:

  • Chloramines (31%);
  • Glutaraldehyde (26%); and
  • Quaternary ammonium compounds (11%). 

Industries with the highest numbers of cases were:

  • Healthcare (55%);
  • Education (18%); and
  • Leisure (8%).

The researchers concluded that in industries where use of cleaning products is common, (especially in hospitals, nursing homes, leisure centres and swimming pools) employers must be vigilant to the risk of occupational asthma. Employers must also be alert to variable exposure dosage, as cleaning and decontamination practice is often affected by policy change.


[i]  Walters, G. I., Burge, P. S., Moore, V. C. & Robertson, A. S. Cleaning agent occupational asthma in the West Midlands, UK: 2000–16. Occup Med (Lond) doi:10.1093/occmed/kqy113  https://academic.oup.com/occmed/advance-article-abstract/doi/10.1093/occmed/kqy113/5090305?redirectedFrom=fulltext (Accessed 10 September 2018)