Patients and healthcare workers can be exposed to hazardous chemicals within an oncology center. This may be an unexpected source of exposure but it is a real threat nonetheless.
This could lead to accidental contact with toxic substances. The environmental monitoring of oncology centers could prevent the appearance of side effects.
The hospital and clinic directors, employees, and patients need to use caution. Read ahead to learn more environmental monitoring and assessment in health care settings.
What Is Environmental Monitoring?
In the broadest sense of the term, it refers to the process of analyzing samples taken from a given place. This is to determine its characteristics and identify the presence of contamination.
There are countless techniques, instruments, and applications in the world of environmental monitoring. The definition of the terms can range depending on the particular field.
Oftentimes, we think of it as it relates to climate change and pollution. It should also apply to workplaces or anywhere else.
Environmental Monitoring in Health Care Centers
You wouldn’t immediately associate environmental monitoring with a doctor’s office but you should think twice.
If you own or work in an oncology treatment facility where chemotherapy drugs are present, you should probably think three times.
Anyone present in an oncology setting could potentially be exposed to hazardous chemicals. This includes patients, visitors, doctors, nurses, and all other staff members.
The most common types of dangerous exposure are from drugs that are used to treat patients with cancer. Anyone who has ever experienced chemotherapy or taken antineoplastic drugs can tell you. The side effects can take a serious toll on your quality of life.
The severity of these side effects can be worth the benefit of people living with cancer and other medical conditions. However, this is clearly not the case for people who were accidentally exposed.
Sources of Contamination
It is extremely important to follow the guidelines on proper handling and administration at all times. Safety measures, such as the use of gloves, are in place to reduce the risk of exposure.
Environmental monitoring is still a necessary part of risk reduction. Several studies have demonstrated the presence of chemotherapy drug residues on different surfaces in oncological treatment centers.
Many of these drugs could be absorbed through the skin. Therefore, it is feasible that these residues present a serious health risk, particularly in pregnant women.
Chemotherapy and other antineoplastic medication have a cytotoxic effect. This means they can damage cells.
They prevent cancer cells from replicating but, unfortunately, can be harmful to healthy cells as well. This is why so many of these drugs can have serious side effects.
It is important to understand how these drugs work and the dangers that come from mishandling them. Here are some of the most common examples
Cyclophosphamide (CP) is a chemotherapy drug with a significant immunosuppressive effect.
It is useful in many types of cancers and medical conditions. Examples include leukemia, lymphoma, multiple myeloma, ovarian cancer, breast cancer, nephrotic syndrome, and organ transplantation.
CP converts to its active form to interfere with DNA function and leads to cells death.
Side Effects of CP
CP can lead to severe nausea and vomiting, bone marrow suppression, cystitis, and many other conditions.
5-Fluorouracil (5-FU) is used in GI cancers, breast cancer, cervical cancers, and several types of skin cancer.
It is classified as an antimetabolite pyridine-analog. It inhibits the action of the enzyme thymidylate synthase. This halts DNA production.
Side Effects of 5-FU
Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headache, mood disorders, rash, and inflammation of mucous membranes are common with the use of 5-FU.
Cardiotoxicity and myelosuppression are also serious side effects to look out for.
Less frequently, 5-FU can lead to swelling of the esophagus, GI ulcers, encephalopathy, and visual changes.
This platinum-containing chemotherapeutic agent that is administered intravenously. It is useful in the treatment of sarcomas, small cell lung cancer, germ-cell tumors, squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck, and bladder cancer.
However, cisplatin’s claim to fame comes from its use in testicular cancer. It is credited with reducing the mortality rate of this common condition by two-thirds.
Side Effects of Cisplatin
Despite the benefits, taking cisplatin is not without risk.
Besides nausea and vomiting, this drug can lead to kidney failure, nerve damage, hearing loss, anemia, and electrolyte imbalances.
Cytotoxic Drugs and Pregnancy
Accidental exposure to cytotoxic drugs is harmful to anybody. However, the effects on a growing fetus can be catastrophic.
Chemotherapy drugs are designed to target cancer cells that are constantly multiplying. This is why they can also cause disease of the skin and GI tract, for example.
However, damage to certain cells during pregnancy can lead to serious birth defects.
How to Reduce Exposure Risk
There are certain ways to reduce the risk of exposure on the job. Always follow the guidelines with regards to safe handling and administration of cytotoxic drugs.
Accidents happen and there is no way around it. Be sure to report any accidents that could lead to exposure so a report can be made and future slips might be avoided.
Finally, and most obviously, wear the darn gloves.
Environmental Monitoring Service
Everything from the handling to the storage and refrigeration of chemicals must be taken very seriously.
Even with the best care, it’s a good idea to consider hiring an environmental monitoring service.
They can check the workplace and determine if any dangers are present.
Take Out the Guesswork
Chemotherapy has changed the way we look at cancer and has given hope to millions around the world.
However, workers and other people at these facilities may be exposed to cytotoxic drugs and experience severe side effects. Forget the guesswork and protect you and your workers from harm. Visit this blog for more information about environmental monitoring.