Healthcare workers involved in the preparation or administration of hazardous drugs require personal protection equipment, or PPE, to help prevent any of the drugs from getting on themselves, which will lead to many potential adverse effects. Some PPE which should be worn by anyone handling these hazardous drugs are NIOSH-certified respirators, gloves, full body covering gown, face and eye protection, hair covers, and shoe covers to help assure protection from exposure to these hazardous drugs. If the healthcare workers use this full kit to protect themselves while handling hazardous drugs, this will significantly decrease the risk of exposure to the hazardous drug.
Some healthcare workers choose not to use all this equipment since it can take extra time to put on this equipment, but the risk of exposure is much greater if this PPE is not all used or not used properly. Some workers choose not even to wear a pair of gloves while handling these hazardous drugs, which can lead to many issues. One study showed that healthcare workers who handled hazardous drugs without gloves saw an increased likelihood of their offspring having a learning disability.
Handling hazardous drugs can be dangerous to the person handling these due to the possible adverse effects of these drugs. Workers handling hazardous drugs before the age of 25 saw increased odds of infertility. There was an increased rate of cancer, especially acute leukemia, in nurses who handled hazardous drugs.
In healthcare facilities which hazardous drugs are used, studies have been done and found that there is a lot of contamination in the workplace. One study collected urine samples from nurses who handled hazardous drugs and also from nurses who did not have any part in handling hazardous drugs. Trace amounts of the hazardous drugs were found in the urine of nurses, including those who did not have any handling of the hazardous drugs indicating that contamination of the workplace does often occur from routine handling of these hazardous drugs.
Another study looked for remaining amounts of hazardous drugs on various surfaces in areas where hazardous drug preparation or administration occurred. In 75% of drug preparation areas and 65% of drug administration areas, there were measurable amounts of the hazardous drug remaining on the surface. Also, commercially available vials of these hazardous drugs also found trace amounts of the hazardous drugs on the exterior of the vial, which put anyone handling these vials at risk for any of the severe adverse effects.
For healthcare workers using gloves while handling hazardous drugs, a study found that they should be changed every 30 minutes due to the amount of residual drugs which can be found on the gloves after that amount of time leading to a higher risk of it getting on their skin. It was also found that there was often skin contamination underneath the gloves of nurses handling hazardous drugs, especially after handling urine from a patient being administered hazardous drugs.
PPE is essential for healthcare workers to help keep them safe and free from the possible adverse effects of hazardous drugs. Even with the PPE, there is still a high amount of risk involved for both the people handling hazardous drugs and the people nearby due to the high chances of contamination throughout the workplace.