Disinfectants May Increase COPD Risk for Nurses

A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association(JAMA) Network Open showed nurses have an increased risk of developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The long-term study followed over 70,000 nurses in this country, and none of them had a history of COPD. The leading cause of the disease was shown to be the use of disinfectants.

The study’s lead researcher said that nurses who performed regular disinfection tasks, such as cleaning countertops and medical instruments, were faced with this possible threat. She added that the chemicals included alcohol, bleach, and hydrogen peroxide. In previous studies, similar results were shown in workers in other fields who regularly used cleaning products and disinfectants.

Learning About COPD

COPD affects the lungs and is often diagnosed as chronic bronchitis or emphysema. The airways become inflamed and then thicken. The tissue where the oxygen comes in to be exchanged gets destroyed, and as a result, one’s airflow decreases. When less oxygen comes into the body, it is more difficult to eliminate carbon dioxide. As this chronic condition worsens, the person may experience a shortness of breath, which makes it hard to stay healthy and active. There is no cure for COPD, and it can lead to long-term disability and fatalities. Even so, it is preventable and treatable. Over 15 million people in this country have it, but learning to manage it can improve its prognosis.

Overview of the Study

The registered nurses who completed the questionnaires had an average age of 54. Ninety-six percent were white; 1.8 percent were Hispanic; 1.7 percent were black; and 23 percent were specified as other. Out of the 73,262 nurses surveyed, 582 had been diagnosed with COPD by their doctors. Factors such as age, body mass, race, and smoking were taken into consideration. These results suggested that the regular use of chemical disinfectants could be a risk factor for nurses developing COPD.


JAMA’s study concluded that different types of disinfectants could cause poor respiratory outcomes, including COPD. They advocated for new infection control standards and methods for maintaining them in health care settings. Recommendations include green cleaning and emerging disinfection technologies, such as UV light and steam. The report also stated that health care professionals should be aware of this risk and continue to watch for other occupational exposures in settings for both workers and patients.

Bucks County Work Injury Lawyers at Freedman & Lorry, P.C. Help Employees Injured Due to Workplace Hazards

Nurses often find themselves in hazardous workplace situations, and the risk of developing COPD should be taken into consideration. If you are suffering from a work-related injury, reach out to the Bucks County work injury lawyers at Freedman & Lorry, P.C. Complete our online form or call us at 888-999-1962 for a free case evaluation. Located in Philadelphia, Cherry Hill, New Jersey, and Pinehurst, North Carolina, we serve clients throughout Pennsylvania.