In December 2007, Environmental Working Group published a study entitled “Nurses’ Health and Workplace Exposures to Hazardous Substances”. The study was based on a survey of nurses who reported varying levels of exposure to common chemicals found in hospitals. What they found was quite remarkable, and speaks to the importance of area monitoring in the workplace. A few interesting excerpts:
“Participating nurses who were exposed frequently to sterilizing chemicals, housekeeping cleaners, residues from drug preparation, radiation, and other hazardous substances report increased rates of asthma, miscarriage, and certain cancers, as well as increases in cancers and birth defects, in particular musculoskeletal defects, in their children.”
“Asthma rates increased by up to 50 percent for nurses reporting high exposure to disinfecting and sterilizing agents (glutaraldehyde and ethylene oxide), housekeeping chemicals, and latex, relative to nurses with lower exposure to these hazards.”
“Nurses reporting high exposures to ethylene oxide and antineoplastic drugs also reported up to 20 percent higher incidence in miscarriage, on average, than nurses with lower or no exposure.”
“46 percent of nurses report feeling that the administrations at their health care facilities are not doing enough to protect them from hazardous exposures, and 37 percent do not think that occupational health is taken seriously at their place of employment.”
In light of these results, Environmental Working Group offered suggestions and recommendations to improve worker safety, saying that “(health care facilities) should monitor the air, surfaces, and even nurses’ bodies for chemicals. They should educate nurses on the hazards and safe use of chemicals and other hazardous agents. And they should not wait for these actions to be mandatory.”
We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.
To read the entire study, visit http://www.ewg.org/reports/nursesurvey.