An Overview of Cleaning Agents’ Health Hazards and Occupational Injuries and Diseases Attributed to Them in Sweden

Using data from the Swedish Products Register, hosted by the Swedish Chemicals Agency (KemI),national occupational injury and disease statistics, and call records from the Swedish PoisonsInformation Centre (PIC) we characterize health hazards of marketed cleaning products and recordedinjuries, disease, and incidents linked to cleaning or disinfection agents.

The results showthat cleaning agents pose many kinds of health hazards, although corrosion and irritation hazardsdominate, in particular for the eyes (54% of all included products).

Few products were recognizedas inhalation hazards. The nature of the health hazards is reflected in the occupational disease andinjury statistics and PIC records for eyes and skin but not for the respiratory tract. Among occupationaldisease cases attributed to cleaning or disinfection agents, 61% concern skin and 26% therespiratory tract.

Among occupational injury cases 64% concern chemical burns. However, only asmall part (<0.5%) of all reported diseases and injuries were explicitly attributed to cleaning or disinfectionagents.

On average, there were 11 cases of disease attributed to cleaning or disinfectionagents per million workers and year. For occupational injuries the corresponding number was 8. Thedata concern a broad range of sectors and occupations, but notable sectors were healthcare, accommodationand food service, and manufacturing.

Women were more likely to suffer from disease,men and women equally likely to suffer from injury. PIC cases were evenly distributed between menand women, but the clear risk cases more frequently involved men.

Occupational diseases increasedmany-fold in 2020 while injuries decreased, which could be due to COVID-19 changing use patternsof cleaning and disinfection agents at work.

We conclude that cleaning agents pose a variety of risksto a large part of the workforce, although particular attention for preventive efforts may need to bedirected to the healthcare, accommodation and food service, and manufacturing sectors.

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Last updated: 2022-09-23

IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute

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