The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) requests assistance in preventing occupational exposures to antineoplastic drugs (drugs used to treat cancer) and other hazardous drugs in health care settings. Healthcare workers who work with or near hazardous drugs may suffer from skin rashes, infertility, miscarriage, birth defects, and possibly leukemia or other cancers.
Workers may be exposed to hazardous drugs in the air or on work surfaces, clothing, medical equipment, and patient urine or feces. The term hazardous drugs, as it is used in this Alert, includes drugs that are known or suspected to cause adverse health effects from exposures in the workplace. They include drugs used for cancer chemotherapy, antiviral drugs, hormones, some bioengineered drugs, and other miscellaneous drugs. The health risk depends on how much exposure a worker has to these drugs and how toxic they are. Exposure risks can be greatly reduced by (1) making sure that engineering controls
such as a ventilated cabinet are used and (2) using proper procedures and protective equipment for handling hazardous drugs.
This Alert warns health care workers about the risks of working with hazardous drugs and recommends methods and equipment for protecting their health. The Alert addresses workers in health care settings, veterinary medicine, research laboratories, retail pharmacies, and home health care agencies; it does not address workers in the drug manufacturing sector. Included in the Alert are five case reports of workers
who suffered adverse health effects after being exposed to antineoplastic drugs.
NIOSH requests that employers, editors of trade journals, safety and health officials, and unions bring the recommendations in this Alert to the attention of all workers who are at risk.
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