The past few decades have witnessed some serious research conducted to protect workers employed in the health care industry from the risks of occupational exposure to hazardous drugs. Medicines used for chemotherapy may cause serious health effects to persons administering them though they act as life saving devices for the patients. For instance, exposure to Antineoplastics and other Cytotoxic agents may lead to short term and long term health effects like allergies of the skin, miscarriage, fetal malformations, reproductive disorders and even various forms of cancer.
The hospital staff can be exposed to harmful medications through different ways which include inhalation of aerosols and vapors, absorption into the skin through direct contact, ingestion and accidental needle jabs. Other causes of Occupational exposure to hazardous drugs are faulty operator techniques resulting in escape of chemical aerosols. Accidental spilling of medicine can also contaminate the work surfaces and expose the laboratory and hospital staff to risk. In some instances, cleaning of work surfaces contaminated by drug leakage and spills also pose risk to the health of nurses, physicians and others involved in handling, preparing and administering them.
Engineering controls are being devised to control the exposure of workers to such hazardous drugs. Some of these controls include the use of closed system transfer devices, biological safety cabinets and personal protective equipment
s. The biological safety cabinets protect sterile product from contamination and move the airflow away from the worker. Personal Protective equipments like gloves, gowns and caps protect nurses against contamination while administering medications and handling patient excreta. Occupational exposure to hazardous drugs through plunger and open barrel contamination, drug spill during transfer from vial to syringe, and transfer between containers can cause severe health hazards.
Several equipments and machines are available that help minimize exposure to dangerous medicines. However, lack of standard policies and methods to implement safety measures and the reluctance of nurses and other health care personnel to use personal protective equipment has resulted in increasing cases of health problems caused through contamination and exposure to chemicals. Effective implementation of safety measures is possible by framing policies and training the staff on the precautions to be taken while handling and administering hazardous medicines.
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