Occupational Asthma Reference

Quinot C, Dumas O, Henneberger PK, Varraso R, Wiley AS, Speizer FE, Goldberg M, Zock JP, Camargo Jr CA, Le Moual N, Development of a job-task-exposure matrix to assess occupational exposure to disinfectants among US nurses, Occup Environ Med, 2017;74:130-137,doi.org/10.1136/oemed-2016-103606

Keywords: nurse, cleaner, biocide, health-care worker, JEM, JTEM

Known Authors

Paul Henneberger, NIOSH, Morgantown, USA Paul Henneberger

Jan-Paul Zock, Municipal Institute of Medical Research, Barcelona, Spain Jan-Paul Zock

Orianne Dumas, Villejuif, France Orianne Dumas

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Occupational exposure to disinfectants is associated with work-related asthma, especially in healthcare workers. However, little is known about the specific products involved. To evaluate disinfectant exposures, we designed job-exposure (JEM) and job-task-exposure (JTEM) matrices, which are thought to be less prone to differential misclassification bias than self-reported exposure. We then compared the three assessment methods: self-reported exposure, JEM and JTEM.

Disinfectant use was assessed by an occupational questionnaire in 9073 US female registered nurses without asthma, aged 49–68 years, drawn from the Nurses' Health Study II. A JEM was created based on self-reported frequency of use (1–3, 4–7 days/week) of 7 disinfectants and sprays in 8 nursing jobs. We then created a JTEM combining jobs and disinfection tasks to further reduce misclassification. Exposure was evaluated in 3 classes (low, medium, high) using product-specific cut-offs (eg, <30%, 30–49.9%, =50%, respectively, for alcohol); the cut-offs were defined from the distribution of self-reported exposure per job/task.

The most frequently reported disinfectants were alcohol (weekly use: 39%), bleach (22%) and sprays (20%). More nurses were classified as highly exposed by JTEM (alcohol 41%, sprays 41%, bleach 34%) than by JEM (21%, 30%, 26%, respectively). Agreement between JEM and JTEM was fair-to-moderate (? 0.3–0.5) for most disinfectants. JEM and JTEM exposure estimates were heterogeneous in most nursing jobs, except in emergency room and education/administration.

The JTEM may provide more accurate estimates than the JEM, especially for nursing jobs with heterogeneous tasks. Use of the JTEM is likely to reduce exposure misclassification.

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This paper tries to estimate exposures to cleaning agents and biocides in nurses and finds that a job-exposure matrix is not very effective at this, but adding a section on tasks is better (a JTEM, job-task exposure matrix). Perhaps there is no real substitute for an occupational history?
Exposure to cleaning sprays were identified by 20% of nurses, surely something that should be avoided if inhalation of potential causes of asthma is to be avoided.

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