Study:Healthcare Workers Exposedto Toxins During Endoscopic Procedures

A new study finds that healthcare workers assisting endoscopic gastrointestinal procedures in US operation theatres are exposed to dangerous toxin levels equivalent to smoking a cigarette per procedure. The study reveals hazardous conditions, exceeding EPA safety limits, and calls for stricter safety protocols and regulations.

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Bijay Laxmi
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Study:Healthcare Workers Exposedto Toxins During Endoscopic Procedures

Study:Healthcare Workers Exposedto Toxins During Endoscopic Procedures

A new study reveals that healthcare workers assisting endoscopic gastrointestinal procedures in US operation theatres are exposed to dangerous toxin levels equivalent to smoking a cigarette during each procedure, increasing "significant health risks". The study, led by researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital, found that smoke-producing endoscopic procedures, such as those using electrical current to remove polyps, expose healthcare workers to hazardous conditions.

Why this matters: This study highlights a previously overlooked occupational health hazard that affects thousands of healthcare workers in the US, underscoring the need for stricter safety protocols and regulations in medical settings. The findings also raise concerns about the long-term health consequences for these workers and the potential impact on the healthcare system as a whole.

The researchers discovered that the peak level of volatile organic compounds reached twice the maximum safe level determined by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) during these procedures. Elevated levels of ultrafine particles and fine inhalable particles less than 2.5 micrometres were also found during all procedures, with the highest average levels occurring during argon plasma coagulation.

"Surgeons in the operating room have regulations and guidelines to mitigate smoke exposure, but that does not exist for gastrointestinal endoscopy," said lead author Trent Walradt, a research fellow at Brigham. The cumulative effect of repeated exposure is concerning, as Chris Thompson, director of endoscopy at Brigham and principal investigator on the study, explained: "If you're doing four or five procedures a day, that's five cigarettes a day. Over the course of a week, it's like you're smoking a pack of cigarettes. That's not acceptable."

The findings of this groundbreaking study will be presented at theDigestive Disease Week(DDW) 2024 in Washington, DC. The research sheds light on a previously overlooked health hazard faced by healthcare workers performing routine endoscopic procedures. It underscores the urgent need for implementing safety measures and guidelines to protect the well-being of medical professionals in gastrointestinal endoscopy units across the United States.