This article hits close to home for me, as I have serveral close friends who work in healthcare. If you or someone you know is a nurse, pharmacist, doctor, or other healthcare worker that mixes, administers, or otherwise handles chemotherapy drugs, take the time to read this article in the Seattle Times about “secondhand” chemo exposure. Chemotherapy drugs are known to be highly toxic – they’re actually descended from the deadly mustard gas used in WWI – and are themselves carcinogenic. Yet the federal government does not require safety protocols that protect workers from contamination. With approximately 2 million workers in the US who actually mix and dispense chemo, this is a huge public health concern. Chemo drugs are increasingly being used in vets offices as well, opening up the potential harm to another huge population of people.
The article outlines the health dangers associated with secondhand chemo exposure – multiple cancers as well as miscarriages and birth defects, as well as others. These health dangers aren’t a new discovery – in 2004 the CDC issued extremely strict guidelines and safety precautions for workers who handle chemo. However, the guidelines are voluntary. And the high costs associated with the “chemo gowns, double-gloving, use of sophisticated “closed-system” devices and specialized ventilation hoods, face shields and respirators” that they recommend certainly aren’t speeding up their adoption.
Workers who handle these drugs have gotten cancers as early as their 20s. Sad. If you know anyone who could be affected, pass on this article to spread the word. This is a public health issue and changes in federal regulations can be hastened by increasing awareness and demanding change.