Chemotherapy drugs have been used to treat cancer since the 1950s. While the drugs are often lifesaving for cancer patients, they are also linked to reproductive problems, breast cancer and other health issues in the medical staff who work with the medications. To help protect health care workers, the University of Minnesota School of Public Health conducted a survey to track how chemotherapy drugs are handled in hospitals and identify work surfaces that could be contaminated by them.
The results of the survey, led by assistant professor Dr. Susan Arnold and doctoral student Ms.Hannah Kaup, were published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene. The survey is the first step in ongoing research by Dr. Arnold aimed at reducing medical staff exposure to chemotherapy drugs.
The researchers tracked how pharmacy technicians and nursing staff handled the drugs by visiting two chemotherapy infusion centers. One center was in a large urban hospital and the other inside a smaller, regional clinic. The researchers focused on identifying surfaces that are frequently touched by staff handling chemotherapy drugs, how long they are touched and by whom.
The survey revealed: