Occupational Health Watch: Cleaning Products and Work-Related Asthma

Custodians, cleaners, and maintenance workers are the employees most at risk for work-related asthma from exposure to cleaning agents.

The Work-Related Asthma Prevention Program (WRAPP), of the California Department of Public Health, Occupational Health Branch, has found that work-related asthma among custodians and cleaners is double the rate in the overall workforce. WRAPP has also found that teachers, office workers, and other building occupants can get asthma from cleaning chemicals used in their workplaces.

A new set of multilingual worker fact sheets explain work-related asthma, how it can be prevented from cleaning product exposures, and what to do if a worker experiences symptoms. The fact sheets are available in English, Spanish and Chinese. Another, more detailed fact sheet is available in English for employers and facilities staff.

The fact sheets can help workers and employers find safer cleaning products by providing web links for two independent organizations, EcoLogo and Green Seal. These groups certify that cleaning products have met high standards to protect human health and the environment. WRAPP participated in the development of cleaning product standards and successfully argued for the prohibition of ingredients known to cause allergic-type asthma.