Nobody wants to eradicate Clostridium difficile more than infection preventionists, but they must balance patient safety with the respiratory health of workers using powerful cleaners to eradicate resilient C. diff spores.
“There really has to be a balance between patient safety and worker safety,” says Megan Casey, RN, MPH, a nurse epidemiologist with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). “We need to make sure that worker safety is not compromised as we continue this battle against healthcare-associated infections.”
Preliminary results of an ongoing public health investigation indicate that a powerful sporicidal cleaning agent used in some 500 hospitals is being linked to wheezing, watery eyes and asthma-like symptoms in healthcare workers, NIOSH reports.1
The product contains acetic acid, peroxyacetic acid, and hydrogen peroxide. A branch of the CDC, NIOSH recently published a summary of the findings that included the following key points:
- Researchers interviewed 79 (78%) of 101 current environmental services staff about their health.
- Among the 68 employees who worked with the product, the most commonly reported health outcomes were watery eyes (46%), nasal problems (41%), asthma-like symptoms (28%), use of allergy medicine (16%), and shortness of breath (16%).
- A total of 30 (44%) reported at least one work-related health outcome. Most commonly reported work-related symptoms were watery eyes (29%) and nasal problems (22%).
Among the recommendations2 by NIOSH is to implement a reporting system that would permit employees to report work-related symptoms, with the option for employees who do not wish to be identified to remain anonymous. If environmental services staff do report respiratory, skin, and/or eye symptoms, a combination of engineering and administrative controls might be needed to reduce employee exposures.
- CDC/NIOSH. Notes from the Field: Respiratory Symptoms and Skin Irritation Among Hospital Workers Using a New Disinfection Product — Pennsylvania, 2015. MMWR 2016;65(15);400–401.
- Hawley, BM. Are Hospital Cleaning Staff at Risk When Using a One-step Cleaner? NIOSH Science Blog. April 29th, 2016: http://bit.ly/29vFOUQ