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Workplace injuries: Disinfectants cause respiratory problems

International researchers recently reported their findings after studying the health effects of frequent exposure to cleaning materials and disinfectants, specifically among health care workers. The results raised concern among employers in the health care industry in Oklahoma and elsewhere because they are responsible for protecting employees from workplace injuries and illnesses. Indications are that chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is prevalent among nurses and for workers in other professions in which exposure to cleaning products and disinfectants is common.

Safety and health authorities say even weekly exposure to products like hydrogen peroxide, bleach and alcohol in disinfectants and cleaning compounds increases the health risk of COPD by about 25%. These numbers do not involve asthma or smoking harm. They say it is a significant concern because health care workers represent one of the largest sectors of employment in the United States.

COPD can lead to long-term disability and even early death; however, early detection could change the course of the disease and the respiratory damage it causes. The symptoms include chronic phlegm production, chronic cough, wheezing and breath shortness. Researchers concluded that safer alternatives without harmful chemicals should be used wherever possible.

Proving that illnesses such as COPD are work-related will always be challenging. Oklahoma workers can rely upon the support and guidance of an experienced workers' compensation attorney. Just like workplace injuries, the state-regulated workers' compensation program typically covers occupational diseases. Legal counsel can assist with gathering the necessary medical evidence to document that the COPD is work-related, and also navigate the claims process to pursue recovery of all applicable benefits, including medical expenses and lost wages.

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