U.S. Lags In Keeping Workers Safe From Toxic Drugs
The Seattle Times/InvestigateWest: The United States lags in keeping workers who handle toxic drugs safe on the job.
In many countries, there are strict regulations and inspections regarding workers who handle chemotherapy drugs. "In the U.S., however, neither environmental monitoring nor exposure tracking is mandated. And neither is routinely taking place, said Tom Conner, a research biologist with National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). Yet U.S. studies have shown if testing were done, it likely would indicate most workplaces where chemo is being handled have some degree of contamination. New research by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the largest study of its kind to date, has found continued evidence of contamination and exposure at three major health-care institutions, according to Connor, one of the principal authors of the study." The institutions include the universities of Maryland, North Carolina and Texas" (Smith, 7/10).
Related stories also details the experiences of Sue Crump, a woman who died from pancreatic cancer, after handling chemo for 23 years as a pharmacist; Karen Lewis, who had a blood cancer after she worked with chemo since 1993; and Bruce Harrison, an oncology pharmacist who spent a lot of his career trying to educate about the risks involved in helping create chemo drugs. "Harrison for years was a clinical pharmacy specialist with the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in St. Louis. He was also one of the authors of the strictest set of voluntary guidelines, issued in 2004 by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, for the safe handling of chemo and other hazardous drugs by health-care workers. Those practices, had they been in place throughout his career, might have saved his own life" (Smith, 7/10).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.