U.S. healthcare worker safeguards not world class

By: July 20th, 2010 Email This Post Print This Post

It seems that in some places, the world has passed the U.S. by in protecting healthcare workers from toxic substance such as chemotherapy agents.

Canada, Holland, Germany, Austria, and Belgium specifically require safeguards for healthcare workers handling and administering chemotherapy drugs, reports The Seattle Times, July 11.

The article reflects the concerns of an msnbc.com report on pharmacists and nurses who may have cancer as a result of occupational exposure. (See Healthcare workers caught between drugs that save and drugs that kill)

In the United Kingdom and France, even veterinarians with chemo practices have more safeguards than U.S. workers, according to The Seattle Times.

“Contamination is everywhere, even at the best-organized facilities,” Paul Sessink, a chemist and toxicologist who has performed environmental monitoring in 300 hospitals world-wide, told the Times. In Europe there is movement to make worker safety regulations stronger, while in the U.S. the emphasis appears to be exclusively on patient safety, he added.

Does the claim that U.S. healthcare workers are not the best protected in the world surprise you, or do you dispute that assessment? Let us know in the comment section below.


By Richard Warburton on July 20th, 2010 at 11:32 am

In addition to various drugs, healthcare workers are also exposed to chemical disinfectants and sterilants, chemicals designed to destroy a wide range of bioforms. Exposure of healthcare workers to these compounds presents significant risks, [www.chemdaq.com/health_risks.htm] especially since some of these compounds are known human (formaldehyde, ethylene oxide, [IARC]) or animal (hydrogen peroxide, [ACGIH]) carcinogens and others such as glutaraldehyde and the chemically similar o-phthalaldehyde (OPA) are sensitizers as well as being primary irritants [Chemical Information Profile for OPA, NTP, April 2007]. Under the OSHA Hazcom standard (29 CFR 1910.1200) Healthcare facilities need to identify the potential hazards, employ appropriate engineering controls (e.g. ventilation, continuous gas monitors) and personal protective equipment and and develop the best work practices (e.g. AAMI standards [ST41, ST58 & ST79]) to ensure their employees are not exposed to potentially harmful concentrations of these chemicals.

If anyone knows how your can regulate safety for a chemical that you have no good way of even monitoring if it is present


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