Study identifies dermatitis risk for cleaners

August 15, 2013

New Zealand's first ever study of occupational dermatitis in cleaners has found rates of eczema among them nearly twice that of people not exposed to cleaning agents.

Centre for Public Health researchers from Massey University's College of Health measured work-related skin symptoms in 425 cleaners involved in cleaning hospitals, tertiary institutions, schools, commercial buildings and the meatworks industry. Their results were compared with those of non-exposed workers from the retail and clerical sector as well as bus drivers.

Lead research investigator and centre director Professor Jeroen Douwes from Massey's Wellington campus, says while the research focused on a non-life threatening affliction, the implications were still significant for the more than 30,000 cleaners employed in New Zealand.

"In terms of occupational disease it's something that gets ignored because it's not life threatening but it is more problematic than people realise and can really affect their ability to perform their jobs."

The researchers found that of the surveyed cleaners 14.8 per cent reported experiencing eczema in the three months preceding the surveyed period, compared to 10 per cent of non-exposed workers – representing an almost two-fold increased risk of eczema. It was also more common for cleaners (17.6 per cent) to develop in compared to people not employed in the role (11.4 per cent).

Professor Douwes says cleaners were also more than twice as likely at 11 per cent to report having an itchy skin rash on their hands wrists and forearms compared to 5.3 per cent of the general population.

Overseas, occupational dermatitis is associated with work absenteeism, disability, increased use (and therefore increased cost) of medical care and pharmaceuticals and reduced quality of life and increased stress in individuals with these conditions.

The New Zealand research suggested that cleaners were incorrectly applying anti-dermatitis creams and aggravating existing conditions by re-using old gloves, sometimes for days on end rather than throwing them out, thus damaging the protective skin layer making it more vulnerable to chemical exposure.

In some cases the research revealed that cleaners were not even aware of the they were using and simply identified which was the correct one by the colour of the bottle.

Professor Douwes says workplaces had to accept responsibility for making cleaners aware of the products being used and give them more information about means available to protect their hands and forearms.

"Employers need to make available sufficient gloves and also provide creams and introduce preventative programmes to stop it [the onset of occupational dermatitis] happening in the first place," he says.

Explore further: Hairdressers reluctant to claim workers comp, study finds

Related Stories

Hairdressers reluctant to claim workers comp, study finds

December 12, 2012
A large number of hairdressers do not claim workers compensation for occupational contact dermatitis, according to a recent study.

Compound enhances SSRI antidepressant's effects in mice

June 21, 2013
A synthetic compound is able to turn off "secondary" vacuum cleaners in the brain that take up serotonin, resulting in the "happy" chemical being more plentiful, scientists from the School of Medicine at The University of ...

Antibiotics increase eczema risk in children, study reveals

June 20, 2013
(Medical Xpress)—Use of antibiotics in early life may increase the risk of developing eczema by up to 40 per cent, according to a new study led by King's College London researchers, published today in the British Journal ...

Plumber and spray painter high-risk occupations for asthma

January 15, 2013
Despite known risks and recommendations for protective equipment, many people are still affected with asthma after exposure to chemicals at work. This is the finding of an international study of 13,000 people carried out ...

Recommended for you

Brain disease seen in most football players in large report

July 25, 2017
Research on 202 former football players found evidence of a brain disease linked to repeated head blows in nearly all of them, from athletes in the National Football League, college and even high school.

Safety of medical devices not often evaluated by sex, age, or race

July 25, 2017
Researchers at Yale and the University of California-San Francisco have found that few medical devices are analyzed to consider the influence of their users' sex, age, or race on safety and effectiveness.

Why you should consider more than looks when choosing a fitness tracker

July 25, 2017
A UNSW study of five popular physical activity monitors, including Fitbit and Jawbone models, has found their accuracy differs with the speed of activity, and where they are worn.

Dog walking could be key to ensuring activity in later life

July 24, 2017
A new study has shown that regularly walking a dog boosts levels of physical activity in older people, especially during the winter.

Alcohol to claim 63,000 lives over next five years, experts warn

July 24, 2017
Alcohol consumption will cause 63,000 deaths in England over the next five years – the equivalent of 35 deaths a day – according to a new report from the University of Sheffield Alcohol Research Group.

Alcohol boosts recall of earlier learning

July 24, 2017
Drinking alcohol improves memory for information learned before the drinking episode began, new research suggests.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.