Night cleaners deficient in vitamin D

10th of November 2015
Night cleaners deficient in vitamin D

Does a vitamin D deficiency detected among evening and night shift cleaners in Norway give cause for concern? ECJ reporter Lotte Printz investigates.

Cleaners in Norway working night and evening shifts for facilities services company ISS may receive a special kind of supplement soon.

Unfortunately – you could say – this supplement does not come in cool cash. On the positive side of things, the supplement in question may well have an important impact on the health of the people in this employee group where vitamin D deficiency has proved to be particularly prevalent.

Seven out of 10 employees turned out to be vitamin D deficient when ISS Norway carried out health checks among just over 100 of its night and evening shift cleaners. A number somewhat higher than expected and certainly a higher percentage than in the population as a whole where a little under one-third is vitamin D deficient. Over time low levels of vitamin D could cause chronic illnesses such as cardiovascular disease.

Less daylight

Known as the sunshine vitamin, vitamin D is produced when your skin is being exposed to sunlight, the natural explanation of this deficiency hitting people working nights harder may be that they work when it’s dark and have to sleep during the day. Add to this that the hours of daylight are even shorter during autumn and winter in countries like Norway.

Vitamin D deficiency is an unknown phenomenon in African and Middle Eastern countries, for instance. Besides, darker skin needs more sun to produce vitamin D, and as ISS Norway employs people from 120 nationalities this may add to the problem.

Generally speaking, people working night and evening shifts also tend to eat a less nutritious and varied diet than employees working days, Beate Furulund, health and safety manager of ISS Norway adds.

Speaking to the Norwegian industrial cleaning magazine Renholdsnytt she says that in addition to offering regular health checks to its staff, providing information is important. To begin with, the Norwegian facilities services company is planning to distribute information leaflets about the need for getting sufficient vitamin D, but handing out vitamin supplements to the staff could be the next step.

A healthy and varied diet with lots of liver and oily fish (eg, salmon, trout and herring) does not work wonders on its own. “It’s hard to gain the same effect from food than from one tablespoon of cod liver oil, for example, or five to 10 minutes sun exposure to hands and face daily,” explains industrial medical officer Ina Christoffersen from Unicare to Renholdsnytt.

So Scandinavian and northern European residents alike: It’s time for you to start taking
your supplements!

ISS in the neighbouring countries of Sweden and Denmark has not carried out similar studies or paid special attention to the issue. However Anne Anker, press officer at ISS Denmark, confirmed to ECJ that its 700 employees working nights are offered a special health check every three years. So far, no similar vitamin D deficiency problems have been identified.


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