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30 August 2017

Cleaning workforce at particular risk of pulmonary disease

According to a survey carried out by the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) and picked up on by the Belgian media on 25 August, the mortality rate from pulmonary disease is significantly higher among men and women who work in the cleaning sector than among the rest of the population.

Laura Van den Borre, a doctoral student in sociology at the VUB, investigated the causes of mortality in a population of males and females aged between 30 and 60 who worked in the cleaning sector during the period 1991-2011.

Using a population of executive and non-executive employees as a point of comparison, she discovered that the mortality rate from pulmonary disease was 45% higher for men who had formerly worked in the cleaning sector, and 16% higher for women in the same position.

In total, Laura Van den Borre analysed 202 339 deaths of males and 58 592 deaths of females.

The aim of the research was not to establish a precise explanation for these excess deaths from pulmonary disease; in response to questions from the Belgian media, however, Van den Borre cited as probable causes the workers’ exposure to chemicals in cleaning products and the biological risks associated with exposure to mould and dust.

The cleaning sector in Belgium is a source of employment for around 200 000 workers.

Source: Het Nieuwsblad

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