Cleaning products and work-related asthma

J Occup Environ Med. 2003 May;45(5):556-63. doi: 10.1097/01.jom.0000058347.05741.f9.


To describe the characteristics of individuals with work-related asthma associated with exposure to cleaning products, data from the California-, Massachusetts-, Michigan-, and New Jersey state-based surveillance systems of work-related asthma were used to identify cases of asthma associated with exposure to cleaning products at work. From 1993 to 1997, 236 (12%) of the 1915 confirmed cases of work-related asthma identified by the four states were associated with exposure to cleaning products. Eighty percent of the reports were of new-onset asthma and 20% were work-aggravated asthma. Among the new-onset cases, 22% were consistent with reactive airways dysfunction syndrome. Individuals identified were generally women (75%), white non-Hispanic (68%), and 45 years or older (64%). Their most likely exposure had been in medical settings (39%), schools (13%), or hotels (6%), and they were most likely to work as janitor/cleaners (22%), nurse/nurses' aides (20%), or clerical staff (13%). However, cases were reported with exposure to cleaning products across a wide range of job titles. Cleaning products contain a diverse group of chemicals that are used in a wide range of industries and occupations as well as in the home. Their potential to cause or aggravate asthma has recently been recognized. Further work to characterize the specific agents and the circumstances of their use associated with asthma is needed. Additional research to investigate the frequency of adverse respiratory effects among regular users, such as housekeeping staff, is also needed. In the interim, we recommend attention to adequate ventilation, improved warning labels and Material Safety Data Sheets, and workplace training and education.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Asthma / chemically induced*
  • Asthma / epidemiology
  • Asthma / physiopathology
  • Detergents / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupational Diseases / chemically induced*
  • Occupational Diseases / epidemiology
  • Occupational Diseases / physiopathology
  • Occupations*
  • Population Surveillance / methods*
  • United States / epidemiology


  • Detergents