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Gender differences in experience and reporting of acute symptoms among cleaning staff.

  • Lee, Soo-Jeong1
  • Kyung, Minjung1
  • Leung, Cherry1
  • Hong, OiSaeng1
  • 1 Department of Community Health Systems, School of Nursing, University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, California, USA.
Published Article
American Journal of Industrial Medicine
Wiley (John Wiley & Sons)
Publication Date
Apr 03, 2021
DOI: 10.1002/ajim.23246
PMID: 33811668


Cleaning tasks pose risks of hazardous chemical exposure and adverse health effects for cleaning workers. We examined gender differences among cleaning staff in the experience of chemical-related symptoms and in reporting to supervisors. We analyzed cross-sectional reports from 171 university hospital or campus cleaning staff on chemical exposures to cleaning products, experience of acute symptoms, reporting of symptoms to supervisors, as well as demographic and psychosocial factors (risk perception, job demand/control, supervisor/co-worker support, and safety climate). Results were analized using multivariable logistic regression, adjusting for demographic, job, and psychosocial factors. Interactions of gender and psychosocial variables were also examined. Men and women reported different frequencies for exposure-related tasks. Acute symptoms of chemical exposure were more prevalent in women compared with men (46.0% vs. 25.4%; adjusted odds ratio [OR] = 2.63; 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.27-5.46). Women were more concerned about exposure to cleaning chemicals (p = 0.029) but reported symptoms to their supervisor less often than men (18.5% vs. 40.6%, adjusted OR = 0.28; 95% CI 0.09-0.93). More supervisor support was significantly associated with less frequent symptom experience among women (OR = 0.83; 95% CI 0.70-0.99). Asian workers and less educated workers were less likely than others to report symptoms to supervisors. Gender differences in symptom reporting to supervisors were not explained by psychosocial factors. Women may have increased susceptibility or perception of symptoms from cleaning compared to men, but this may be mitigated by supervisor support. Female Asian workers with lower education may perceive more significant barriers in reporting work-related symptoms to supervisors. Further research is needed to explore factors related to underreporting. © 2021 Wiley Periodicals LLC.

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