State considers law to protect workers from chemotherapy hazards

By: January 24th, 2011 Email This Post Print This Post

Washington state legislators will introduce a bill affording healthcare workers greater protection from chemotherapy hazards, reports The Seattle Times, January 16.

The proposed bill would create an occupational-safety standard for oncology clinics and other settings where chemotherapy is delivered. A related bill would mandate that the state’s cancer registry captures occupational data from cancer patients, according to the Times.

The proposed legislation is in response to a report July 2010 by InvestigateWest on the continuing occupational risks to healthcare workers.

“Chemotherapy drugs have been classified as hazardous by the Occupational Safety and Health Association (OSHA) since the mid-1980s, yet we still do not have adequate workplace-safety protections in place for health-care workers who handle these powerful drugs on a daily basis,” Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles told the Times.

The need for occupational data in the state’s cancer registry is supported by two studies, according to the Times:

  • Danish studies going back to the 1970s point to increased leukemia rates for oncology nurses and physicians who treat cancer.
  • “A 2005 survey of U.S. nurses showed a significant association with infertility and miscarriage among nurses who handled chemo before the age of 25.”

See the Hazard Communication heading on the Tools page for resources and checklists for hazardous drugs in healthcare settings.


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