Hospital-acquired illness due to exposure to chemical disinfectant pollutant

Indoor Air Cartoon Journal, September 2018, Volume 1, #24

Common microbial pollutants found in hospitals are tuberculosis (TB) bacteria, legionella bacteria, Staphylococcus aureus, and Aspergillus spores. Sources of these microbial pollutants are the outdoor environment, patients, hospital facilities and equipment, health workers and their activities, engineering and support staff, and visitors. All hospital users are potentially vulnerable due to their presence in the microbial environment. The low immune system of patients makes them be the most vulnerable. The use of chemical disinfectants to sterilize hospital facilities and equipment is the usual precautionary method taken to reduce exposure to, and intake of the microbial pollutants. However, the disinfectants pose danger to human health when they pollute hospital indoor air.

The toxicity of the disinfectants, which makes them be effective in killing microbial pollutants, makes them be dangerous to human health. The medium of intake of the chemical pollutants includes respiration, skin absorption, and ingestion. A common chemical disinfectant use in the hospital is glutaraldehyde. Watering eyes, rhinitis, dermatitis, respiratory difficulties, nausea, and headache are some of the hospital-acquired health effects associated with glutaraldehyde in the literature. Its pungent smell also deteriorates perceived air quality.

The controlled practice for microbial pollutants reduction should not rely on chemical disinfectants as the first line of defense. Instead, the cause of microbial pollutants generation at the source should be eliminated as much as possible. Efforts should be made to design, construct, maintain and operate engineering solutions to further reduce hospital users’ exposure to, and intake of the microbial and chemical pollutants. What should hospital health workers, engineering and support staff, patients, and visitors do to reduce their exposure and intake of biological and chemical pollutants in a hospital? What should hospital policy makers do to reduce human exposure and intake of the pollutants in a hospital?

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Do you want to know more about this topic? Read Jachuck et al. (1989), Leung and Chan (2006), and Takigawa and Endo (2006) papers.

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