Symptoms and lung function in health care personnel exposed to glutaraldehyde

Am J Ind Med. 2003 Feb;43(2):196-203. doi: 10.1002/ajim.10172.


Background: Glutaraldehyde is widely used as a disinfectant for endoscopic equipment. The aim of this study was to investigate work practices and glutaraldehyde exposure in relation to symptoms and lung function.

Methods: A questionnaire was administered to 76 nurses. Exposed nurses (n = 38) also completed lung function tests and visual analogue scales before and after a work session in which glutaraldehyde exposure occurred. Disinfection activities were timed and counted, personal exposures established, and control measures documented.

Results: Exposure values above the exposure limit (0.10 ppm) were found for all exposure control methods except for the enclosed washing machine. Skin symptoms were 3.6 times more likely to be reported by exposed workers. None of the other symptoms were significantly associated with glutaraldehyde exposure. There were significant cross-shift reductions in FVC and FEV(1) in the exposed group. No evidence of a dose-response relationship for symptoms or lung function was found.

Conclusions: Further exposure controls for both glutaraldehyde and gloves are required to improve skin care in glutaraldehyde exposed nurses. Exposure monitoring methods also need review.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Dermatitis, Occupational / etiology*
  • Disinfectants / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Forced Expiratory Volume / drug effects
  • Glutaral / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Nurses*
  • Occupational Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Occupational Exposure / analysis
  • Odds Ratio
  • Pain Measurement
  • Respiratory Function Tests
  • Surveys and Questionnaires


  • Disinfectants
  • Glutaral