Hospital Chemicals Can Trigger Asthma


BOSTON -- Down every hallway in every hospital, there are doctors, nurses and patients. But it is what people can't see that could be a hazard to their health.

NewsCenter 5's Heather Unruh reported that Health Care Without Harm released a report on Wednesday that said people are getting sick from chemicals found in hospitals. In some cases, the report said, the chemicals are causing asthma or making asthma symptoms worse.

"Overall, it's the nurses, nurses aides, people who come in direct contact with patients and are dealing with these materials all the time," said Richard Clapp, of the Boston University of Public Health.

Clapp said common chemicals that can trigger asthma include latex, formaldehyde, cleaners and disinfectants used to sterilize hospitals. Pesticides used outside hospitals can also be triggers.

Registered Nurse Karen Nelson said hospitals embrace using more environmentally friendly products, but said that finding safer products that keep the hospital sterile is key.

"The most important factor is the effectiveness of the products, in terms of keeping the hospital clean and healthy and safe, and sterile environments where they are necessary," Nelson said.

While hospitals work to keep patients safe, registered nurse Evelyn Bain said toxic chemicals can be lurking anywhere and can cause symptoms like coughing, wheezing, itchy eyes and throat. In some cases, the chemicals can lead to neurological problems.

"We want people to recognize these symptoms when they occur, and just look around see what's happening at the time when these symptoms occur. Is someone using cleaning chemicals or are you using them yourself?" Bain said.

Although the study focused on hospitals, experts said the chemicals are almost everywhere in people's daily lives.