Research Update: Roots of Hospital Workers' Asthma Examined

"Work-related respiratory symptoms in hospital workers may be associated with diverse biological contaminants," the researchers concluded.

A field study performed by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health at two hospitals evaluated whether employees' respiratory symptoms and asthma were related to damp indoor environments. The study was published in the journal Indoor Air, which is published on behalf of the International Society of Indoor Air Quality and Climate.

After a cluster of six work-related asthma cases came from one hospital department, with the symptoms arising during a time of significant water incursions, agency personnel surveyed 1,171 of 1,834 employees working in the sentinel cases hospital and a nearby hospital without known indoor environmental concerns and also sampled dampness, air, chair, and floor dust for biological contaminants and investigated exposure-response associations for about 500 participants.

Post-hire asthma and work-related lower respiratory symptoms were found to be positively associated with the dampness score. Work-related lower respiratory symptoms showed monotonically increasing odds ratios with ergosterol, a marker of fungal biomass. Other fungal and bacterial indices, particle counts, cat allergen, and latex allergen were associated with respiratory symptoms. "Our data imply new-onset of asthma in relation to water damage, and indicate that work-related respiratory symptoms in hospital workers may be associated with diverse biological contaminants," they concluded.

Indoor Air, Volume 19, Issue 4, pages 279-356 (August 2009)"Asthma and respiratory symptoms in hospital workers related to dampness and biological contaminants," Jean M. Cox-Ganser, C.Y. Rao, J.-H. Park, J.C. Schumpert, and K. Kreiss, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Morgantown, W.Va., and Resources for Environmental and Occupational Health, Inc., Missoula, Mont. Correspondence to Jean Cox-Ganser, Ph.D., Research Team Supervisor, Field Studies Branch, Division of Respiratory Disease Studies, NIOSH, 1095 Willowdale Road, M/S 2800, Morgantown, WV 26505, phone 304-285-5818, fax 304-285-5820, e-mail Jcoxganser@cdc.gov.

New Tactics Reduce Facilities' Indoor Allergens
Installing new flooring, using larger entrance mats, and increasing air movement inside the facilities can reduce indoor allergens in schools and child care centers, according to a literature review conducted by the Minnesota Department of Health. The department conducted the review to inform school officials about the relationship between cleaning, indoor environmental quality, and health.

The authors recommended that school officials complete a thorough review of their custodial operations and optimize the maintenance programs, as well as teach teachers and other staffers to minimize clutter, prohibit second-hand furniture, properly care for plants, minimize eating in classrooms and clean up food debris, and take other steps to lessen the burden on custodial staffs.

"Cleaning, Indoor Environmental Quality, and Health: A Review of the Scientific Literature," Minnesota Department of Health.

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