Knowledge, attitudes and behaviors of Latinas in cleaning occupations in northern New Jersey: a cross-sectional mixed methods study

Erin Speiser, Genevieve Pinto Zipp, Deborah A. DeLuca, Ana Paula Cupertino, Evelyn Arana-Chicas, Elli Gourna Paleoudis, Benjamin Kligler, Francisco Cartujano-Barrera

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background: In the United States, 88.3% of all 1,163,000 maids and housekeeping cleaners are female, and approximately half of them Latinas. Latinas are understudied and underrepresented in health research, particularly involving chemical exposure in cleaning practices, lack of job training, and inadequate access to personal protective equipment. The purpose of this study is twofold: 1) to examine the knowledge (via training experiences), attitudes and behaviors of a heterogeneous group of Latinas who clean occupationally and 2) to assess their cleaning practices at work and at home. Methods: This mixed-method study consisted of two phases: 1) three focus groups to explore knowledge (via training experiences), attitudes, and behaviors regarding cleaning practices (N = 15) and 2) a 43-question cross-sectional survey. Focus group audio recordings were analyzed using descriptive and in vivo coding and then coded inductively to explore thematic analysis. Statistical analysis of the survey evaluated means, frequency and percentage for each of the responses. Results: Participants (n = 9) were women (mean age = 48.78 and SD = 6.72) from South America (n = 5), Mexico (n = 1), El Salvador (n = 1) and Dominican Republic (n = 2). The mean length of time living in the US was 18.78 years and over half (55.6%) worked in the cleaning industry for 10 or more years. Findings from the three focus groups (n = 15) included that training in cleaning often occurred informally at a very young age at home. Participants reported cleaning in groups where tasks are rotated and/or shared. Most were the primary person cleaning at home, suggesting increased exposure. Gloves and masks were the most frequently used PPE, but use was not consistent. For participants who purchase their own products, driving factors included price, smell and efficacy. Some participants used products supplied or preferred by the employer. Conclusions: Latinas in cleaning occupations face a range of social and health barriers including lack of safety and health training, inadequate PPE and low literacy. To address these issues, the development of an intervention is warranted to provide training and resources for this critical population of essential workers.

Original languageEnglish
Article number52
JournalJournal of Occupational Medicine and Toxicology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Cleaning
  • Environmental health
  • Environmental justice
  • Health disparities
  • Latina
  • Occupational exposures
  • Population health


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