This February, a class action lawsuit was filed by three hospital workers who developed long-term health problems after using OxyCide™ Daily Disinfectant Cleaner, a powerful hospital-cleaning chemical.
OxyCide is advertised as a way to boost hospital safety by eliminating hard-to-kill microbes, like spores of Clostridium difficle. Unfortunately, it is making housekeeping workers and nurses sick.
“Some of our members started complaining of fairly severe symptoms,” said the president of AFT-Vermont, a union representing healthcare professionals.
OxyCide has been used at over 500 hospitals nationwide since it was introduced in early 2013 by Minnesota-based Ecolab Inc.
Since 2013, hospital workers have consistently reported health problems, including burning eyes, nose and throat symptoms, coughing, headaches, dizziness, nausea, nose bleeds, asthma-like symptoms, lung irritation, skin burns, rashes, and breathing problems.
OxyCide contains a dangerous mixture of chemicals, including Peroxyacetic Acid (PAA), a substance that is known to trigger asthma-like reactions even at low levels.
“It’s like working with onions,” one hospital worker told the Pittsburgh City Paper. “You have no relief, unless you take a break and go some place that’s well ventilated so you can get some air.”
In 2015, several employees at a hospital in Pittsburgh filed complaints about OxyCide. Most of the complaints came from Environmental Services (EVS) technicians who were using OxyCide, but a large number of nurses and medical assistants also reported health effects.
Their complaints resulted in a federal investigation by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), which released a Health Hazard Report in 2016, based on multiple inspections during 2015.
During to the NIOSH investigation, workers commonly reported eye and airway symptoms due to OxyCide — especially when cleaning areas with poor ventilation, such as bathrooms, shower stalls, or closets.
Investigators were also concerned about the long-term health effects of OxyCide. Despite low levels of exposure to OxyCide, several workers at the Pittsburgh hospital had chronic airway problems.
Asthma and other chronic breathing problems were also more common among nursing staff. As early as 2007, multiple case reports have described asthma caused by PAA exposure in hospital workers.
In 2020, a class action lawsuit was filed by a woman who worked as an EVS technician at Mercy One Hospital in Mason City, Iowa, where she used OxyCide to disinfect facilities.
The lawsuit accuses Ecolab of failing to adequately test OxyCide for safety, or warn hospitals about the potential risk to their employees.
The issue is with the OxyCide Dilution Management System. The product’s safety-data sheet recommends that workers wear goggles, gloves, aprons, and respirators if non-diluted OxyCide is handled.
However, protective gear is not recommended when OxyCide is used in its diluted form, which is how it is typically used by hospital workers.
Lawyers claim that Ecolab jeopardized worker safety by promoting their product as safe to use without adequate protective gear. Ecolab is also accused of failing to issue a recall or update safety warnings, which continues to threaten hospital workers’ health and safety.
The lawsuit was filed on March 18, 2020 in the U.S. District Court for Minnesota — Case No. 0:20-cv-00570-SRN-ECW.