Drugs Hazardous to Healthcare Workers

by | Apr 20, 1999 | Studies | 0 comments

Paul J.M. Sessink and Rob P. Bos



We review the literature concerning possible health risks for individuals (e.g. healthcare workers and pharmaceutical plant employees) occupationally exposed to cytostatic drugs. Cytostatic drugs possess toxic properties and may therefore cause mutagenic, carcinogenic and teratogenic effects. Hence, individuals handling these drugs in the course of their employment may face health risks. For this reason, it is important to monitor occupational exposure to these drugs.

An overview of exposure monitoring methods is presented and their value is discussed. Most studies involve nonselective methods for biological monitoring and biological effect monitoring, such as the urinary mutagenicity assay and analysis of chromosomal aberrations and sister-chromatid exchanges in peripheral blood lymphocytes. The disadvantages of these biological methods are that their sensitivity is low and it cannot be proved beyond any doubt that the results found were caused by occupational exposure to cytostatic drugs. For occupational health services it is important to have sensitive and specific methods for monitoring exposure to cytostatic drugs. One of the most promising methods seems to be the determination of cyclophosphamide in urine using gas chromatography–tandem mass spectrometry.

Several studies have demonstrated exposure to cyclophosphamide and other cytostatic drugs, even when protective measures were taken and safety guidelines were followed. To estimate the magnitude of any health effects arising from this exposure, we calculated the risk of cancer due to occupational exposure to cyclophosphamide on the basis of available human and animal dose-response data and the amounts of cyclophosphamide found in urine. The initial results show an extra cancer risk for pharmacy technicians and nurses.

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