Hazardous Drug Exposure Can Be Fatal

Hazardous Drug Exposure can lead to health problems having short to long term impact on all the people involved with the handling of medicines containing toxic agents. Though it is important to heal the diseased patients, it is equally essential to protect the health care workers. The toxic agents contained in the drugs can cause devastating effects like skin problems, birth defects, infertility, leukemia and respiratory problems. Therefore while preparing and administering medications to patients, special care should be taken to prevent the health care personnel from being exposed to harmful medicines.

All preparation, manufacturing and mixing of medication should be done in Biological Safety cabinets in area designated for such processes. The Biological safety cabinet is designed to protect the sterile medicine products from contamination and also moves the airflow in the medicine preparation away from the worker and avoids the workers from being exposed to harmful medicines. While handling the medications, the workers must wear protective caps, gowns, gloves and masks to avoid inhalation, absorption and ingestion of chemical aerosols, vapors, powders and droplets that can be leaked or spilled in the process.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Administration has prescribed guidelines for the safe handling of harmful medicines and other toxic chemicals. These guidelines indicate the various routes through which hazardous drug exposure is possible. It also advocates the methods to reduce such exposure. One of the methods suggested is the use of closed system transfer which ensures safe, enclosed transfer and minimizes exposure. The syringes, infusion sets, IV sets and other medicine delivery systems used in administering and transferring medicines should be fitted with Luer locks to avoid drips, leaks and contamination.

Many devices, machines and equipments have been devised to check hazardous drug exposure. However, traces of contamination have been found in the urine of nurses and health workers employed in hospitals. This is due to lack of adherence to safety measures and lack of seriousness among these health care personnel. This can be overcome by training and implementing policies.