Exposure to disinfectants in health care workers has been associated with respiratory health outcomes, including asthma.
Weekly use of disinfectants to clean surfaces only (16 786 [22.9%] of participants exposed) and to clean medical instruments (13 899 [19.0%] exposed) was associated with COPD incidence, with adjusted hazard ratios of 1.38 (95% CI, 1.13-1.68) for cleaning surfaces only and 1.31 (95% CI, 1.07-1.61) for cleaning medical instruments after adjustment for age, smoking (pack-years), race, ethnicity, and body mass index. High-level exposure, evaluated by the JTEM, to several specific disinfectants (ie, glutaraldehyde, bleach, hydrogen peroxide, alcohol, and quaternary ammonium compounds) was significantly associated with COPD incidence, with adjusted hazard ratios ranging from 1.25 (95% CI, 1.04-1.51) to 1.36 (95% CI, 1.13-1.64). Associations were not modified by smoking or asthma status (P for interaction > .15).
Conclusions and Relevance These longitudinal results suggest that regular use of chemical disinfectants among nurses may be a risk factor for developing COPD. If future studies confirm these results, exposure-reduction strategies that are compatible with infection control in health care settings should be developed