NIOSH Publishers First Data from 2011 Healthcare Worker Chemical Exposure Survey

In 2011 NIOSH surveyed over 20,000 healthcare workers in various fields, online, to assess their exposure to various chemicals including aerosolized medications, antineoplastic drugs, chemical sterilants and high level disinfectants (HLDs), surgical smoke and anesthetic gases.

There were 7 modules, each covering a specific class of chemicals and each module will be published separately. The first paper has just been published (A.L. Steege, J.M. Loiano, M.H. Sweeney, American Journal of Industrial Medicine, first published online:18 FEB 2014) and covers the design and implementation of the survey.

There were a couple of interesting results from the survey, related to ChemDAQ’s favorite topic of the safe use of sterilants and disinfectants.

  • Workers most likely to have been trained for chemical safety were those who used hydrogen peroxide as a chemical sterilant and administered antineoplastic drugs. Their least trained colleagues were those exposed to aerosolized antibiotics and surgical smoke.
  • Hospital workers handling HLDs were less likely to have been trained than their ambulatory surgery center counterparts; but interestingly enough the opposite was true for those workers using ethylene oxide (EtO).
  • However, ambulatory surgery centers using EtO were less likely than hospitals to have standard procedures to reduce employee exposure.

These results are but a brief hint of what is to come and we eagerly await the publication of the full papers each of the modules.