National Nurses United

2016 Health and Safety Brochure

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Page 26 of 27

27 Other Health And Safety Concerns In Hospitals Cleaning chemicals Depending on what technique the hospital uses to disinfect scopes and other medical equip- ment, there is potential exposure to hazardous chemicals like eth- ylene oxide, formaldehyde, and glutaraldehyde. Many hospitals have safer disinfection systems in place, but some may continue to use these hazardous chemi- cals. Ethylene oxide, glutaralde- hyde, and formaldehyde all have short-term irritation effects when inhaled, like eye and respiratory tract irritation, nausea, vomiting, and shortness of breath. Long- term exposure to ethylene oxide may cause cancer. Repeated exposures to formaldehyde may develop into an allergic reaction with severe reactions from eyes, skin, and respiratory tract. It also causes cancer. Radiation Radiation is used in diagnostic tools in the hospital in porta- ble and fixed x-ray machines. Low-level, chronic exposure to radiation can cause effects like skin cancer, bone marrow suppression, or genetic effects. Acute exposures can cause dermatitis, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and weakness. Expo- sures can occur in healthcare workers who are near a machine in operation without protection. These types of exposures are easily prevented by creating a sufficient barrier to separate the employee from the radiation source during operation. Another source of exposure can happen when regular maintenance is not performed on radiation-producing machines. Part of a proper injury and illness prevention program includes adequate machine/ equipment maintenance. FOR QUESTIONS OR COMMENTS PLEASE CONTACT OUR HEALTH AND SAFETY DIVISION:

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