Exposure frequency, intensity, and duration: What we know about work-related asthma risks for healthcare workers from cleaning and disinfection

Amanda M. Wilson, Olusola O. Ogunseye, Tina Fingesi, D. Jean McClelland, Lynn B. Gerald, Philip Harber, Paloma I. Beamer, Rachael M. Jones

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The objective of this review was to scope the current evidence base related to three exposure assessment concepts: frequency, intensity, and duration (latency) for cleaning and disinfection exposures in healthcare and subsequent work-related asthma risks. A search strategy was developed addressing intersections of four main concepts: (1) work-related asthma; (2) occupation (healthcare workers/nurses); (3) cleaning and disinfection; and (4) exposure. Three databases were searched: Embase, PubMed, and the Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature (CINAHL) database. Data were extracted related to three main components of risk assessment: (1) exposure frequency, (2) exposure intensity, and (3) exposure duration. Latency data were analyzed using an exponential distribution fit, and extracted concentration data were compared to occupational exposure limits. The final number of included sources from which data were extracted was 133. Latency periods for occupational asthma were exponentially distributed, with a mean waiting time (1/λ) of 4.55 years. No extracted concentration data were above OELs except for some formaldehyde and glutaraldehyde concentrations. Data from included sources also indicated some evidence for a dose-response relationship regarding increased frequency yielding increased risk, but this relationship is unclear due to potential confounders (differences in role/task and associated exposure) and the healthy worker effect. Data priority needs to include linking concentration data to health outcomes, as most current literature does not include both types of measurements in a single study, leading to uncertainty in dose-response relationships.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)350-363
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of occupational and environmental hygiene
Issue number8
StatePublished - 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • Chemical
  • hygiene
  • inhalation
  • latency
  • occupational health
  • respiratory
  • review

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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