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Ann Work Expo Health. 2017 Nov 10;61(9):1087-1096. doi: 10.1093/annweh/wxx082.

Assessment of Environmental Contamination with Pathogenic Bacteria at a Hospital Laundry Facility.

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Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences, School of Public Health, University of Washington, Box: 357234, 1959 NE Pacific St, Seattle, WA 98195-7234, USA.


Little is known about exposure to pathogenic bacteria among industrial laundry workers who work with soiled clinical linen. To study worker exposures, an assessment of surface contamination was performed at an industrial laundry facility serving hospitals in Seattle, WA, USA. Surface swab samples (n = 240) from the environment were collected during four site visits at 3-month intervals. These samples were cultured for Clostridium difficile, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), and vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE). Voluntary participation of 23 employees consisted of nasal swabs for detection of MRSA, observations during work, and questionnaires. Contamination with all three pathogens was observed in both dirty (laundry handling prior to washing) and clean areas (subsequent to washing). The dirty area had higher odds of overall contamination (≥1 pathogen) than the clean area (odds ratio, OR = 18.0, 95% confidence interval 8.9-36.5, P < 0.001). The odds of contamination were high for each individual pathogen: C. difficile, OR = 15.5; MRSA, OR = 14.8; and VRE, OR = 12.6 (each, P < 0.001). The highest odds of finding surface contamination occurred in the primary and secondary sort areas where soiled linens were manually sorted by employees (OR = 63.0, P < 0.001). The study substantiates that the laundry facility environment can become contaminated by soiled linens. Workers who handle soiled linen may have a higher risk of exposure to C. difficile, MRSA, and VRE than those who handle clean linens. Improved protocols for prevention and reduction of environmental contamination were implemented because of this study.


Clostridium difficile; MRSA; VRE; environmental contamination; exposure assessment; laundry; linen; methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus; nasal colonization; occupational health; vancomycin-resistant enterococci

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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