Handling Hazardous Drugs in a Healthcare Environment
Some medications that are helpful to patients are, unfortunately, harmful to the healthcare workers who are exposed to the drugs. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) report that, "about 5.5 million U.S. health care workers are potentially exposed to hazardous drugs, such as pharmacy and nursing personnel, physicians, environmental services workers, workers in research laboratories, veterinary care workers, and shipping and receiving personnel."
Harmful chemicals include those used for cancer therapy, some antiviral drugs, hormone agents, and bioengineered drugs. Possible routes of exposure are by inhalation, ingestion (from hand to mouth), injection, and skin absorption.
Depending on the degree of exposure and the level of toxicity, there can be serious repercussions from workplace exposures, including "both acute and chronic health effects such as skin
Through administrative and engineering oversight, healthcare workers can protect themselves by using biological safety cabinets, reducing the quantity of contaminants around them, containing the contaminants at their source, decreasing the time that workers spend in contaminated areas by modifying work schedules, and by utilizing personal protective equipment (PPE) whenever possible.