Cutaneous and respiratory symptoms among professional cleaners.

Lynde CB, Obadia M, Liss GM, Ribeiro M, Holness DL, Tarlo SM.
Occup Med (Lond). 2009 Jun;59(4):249-54. Epub 2009 May 11.

BACKGROUND: Occupational dermatitis is very common and has a large economic impact. Cleaners are at an increased risk for both work-related cutaneous and respiratory symptoms.

AIMS: To compare the prevalence of occupational cutaneous symptoms among professional indoor cleaners to other building workers (OBW) and to determine associations with exposures and with respiratory symptoms among cleaners.

METHODS: A questionnaire completed by indoor professional cleaners and OBW to compare rash and respiratory symptoms between these groups examined workplace factors such as training, protective equipment and work tasks.

RESULTS: In total, 549 of the 1396 professional cleaners (39%) and 593 of the 1271 OBW (47%) completed questionnaires. The prevalence of rash was significantly higher in the cleaners compared to the OBW. For male cleaners, 21% (86/413) had a rash in the past 12 months compared to only 11% (13/115) of OBW (P < 0.05). The rashes experienced by the cleaners were more likely to be on their hands and worse at work. Cleaners washed their hands significantly more often than OBW. Cleaners with a rash were less likely to have received workplace training regarding their skin and were more likely to find the safety training hard to understand. Cleaners with a rash within the past year were significantly more likely to have work-related asthma symptoms than cleaners without a rash (P < 0.001).

CONCLUSIONS: This study demonstrates a strong link between work-related symptoms of asthma and dermatitis among cleaners. Effective preventive measures, such as the use of protective skin and respiratory equipment, should be emphasized.

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