Asthma Risk Related To Cleaning Jobs
January 23, 2013

Occupational Asthma Risks Higher For Cleaning Jobs

Connie K. Ho for — Your Universe Online

Researchers from Imperial College London recently conducted a study that showed a relationship between jobs related to cleaning and the risk of developing asthma.

In the study, the team of investigators recorded the development of asthma in 9,488 participants who were born in Britain in 1958. Nine percent of the individuals were found to develop asthma by the age of 42; the percentage does not include the number of people who had developed asthma during childhood. The researchers believe that risks in the workplace were related to one in six cases of asthma developed during adulthood, which is overwhelmingly more than the one in nine cases of asthma that develop due to smoking.

"This study identified 18 occupations that are clearly linked with asthma risk, but there are others that did not show up in our analysis, mainly because they are relatively uncommon. Occupational asthma is widely under-recognized by employers, employees and healthcare professionals. Raising awareness that this is an almost entirely preventable disease would be a major step in reducing its incidence," remarked Dr. Rebecca Ghosh, a representative of the MRC-HPA Centre for Environment and Health at Imperial College London, in a prepared statement.

The scientists believe that there are a number of other jobs that could cause asthma. In particular, they found 18 different occupations that had a clear relationship with asthma risk - four that were cleaning jobs and another three that had greater exposure to cleaning products. Apart from cleaning jobs, individuals who worked as farmers, hairdressers, and printing workers had an increased risk of developing asthma. In particular, farmers had a four times higher chance of developing asthma as adults as compared to office workers.

Besides cleaning products, the researchers determined that materials such as enzymes, flour, metals, and textiles all contributed to developing asthma.

"This research has highlighted a new group of people, specifically those working in occupations related to cleaning, such as cleaners or home-based personal care workers, who may have developed adult onset asthma due to exposure to chemicals they work with on a daily basis,” noted Malayka Rahman, a Research Analysis and Communications Officer at Asthma UK, in the statement. “We advise anyone who works in the industries highlighted in this study and who have experienced breathing problems to discuss this with their GP, and we urge healthcare professionals to make sure they consider possible occupational causes in adult onset asthma and tailor their advice to people with asthma accordingly."

Similarly, a team of investigators from the National institute of Environmental Health Sciences at the National Institutes of Health (NIEHS) published a study last October that stated the development of asthma was affected by bacterial protein found in house dust. They discovered that the bacterial protein could worsen individuals´ allergic responses to indoor allergens and individuals whose employment focuses on cleaning may come across these bacterial proteins.

"Most people with asthma have allergic asthma, resulting largely from allergic responses to inhaled substances," commented Donald Cook, the paper´s corresponding author and an NIEHS scientist, in a prepared statement.

According to the researchers, the correlation between work and risk of asthma development is of concern as an estimated 5.4 people in the United Kingdom suffer from asthma.

The findings were recently featured in Thorax, a journal focused on respiratory medicine.