Worker Safeguard Discussion Continues
Despite regulations in other countries around the world, the United States still does not have any system in place for tracking the exposure rates of employees who handle chemotherapy drugs. The 1992 death from cancer of a nurse in British Columbia led to large scale changes in the handling chemotherapy drugs there. The nurse, Sally Giles, and the nurses union, attributed her cancer to her routine handling of medications for chemo patients.
In the United States there are no requirements for exposure records or for monitoring environments where the drugs are handled. A recent study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) indicated that contamination is common. Surfaces exposed to the drugs remained contaminated for months. In addition, two pharmacists tested positive for the chemo drugs in their urine.
Regulations in this area are contested because of the perceived difficulty in requiring hospitals and clinics to prove that their environments do not expose their workers to contamination.