Healthcare Workers Regularly Exposed to Cancer-Causing Smoke in ORs

Source: 123RF - 46517072

According to OSHA, half-a-million health care workers in the U.S. are still exposed to cancer-causing smoke every year. Several tools used in the operating room, like electro-surgery units and lasers, produce smoke.

Patients are exposed to the fumes, too.

U.S. research agencies, including the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), have recommended surgical smoke evacuation for more than 20 years.

KSL TV, Utah, reports that surgical plumes are similar to cigarette smoke, and have the same dangers.

Lisa Young, an operating room nurse with Shriners Hospitals for Children-Salt Lake City, said, ” You feel like you’re in an airport lounge. Surgical masks don’t even begin to protect us.”

That’s backed up by an industry report by the Association of Peri-Operative Nurses or AORN.

Surgical smoke also carries blood-born particles, bacteria, and viruses, even the human papillomavirus, or HPV, which could cause significant risks.

A case report in a 2013 issue of the Journal of Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery found HPV-positive tonsillar cancer in two laser surgeons.

An Intermountain spokesperson told KSL TV, “To address smoke that sometimes may be produced during a surgical procedure, all Intermountain hospitals use smoke evacuation methods, as well as respiratory filtration during certain cases. It’s important to note that the majority of surgical procedures produce little to no smoke. “

“We continue to monitor this issue to ensure the highest levels of safety in our facilities,” according to the spokesperson.