In an online survey, researchers examined health risks to nurses who are regularly exposed to medications, cleaning and sterilization chemicals, and radiation. Focusing on 11 common exposure hazards, they polled 1,500 nurses from all 50 states working in various types of facilities. Here are some key findings:
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* Nurses exposed to any type of drug at least once a week for 10 years or more (considered high exposure) had a 14% increase in cancer incidence.
* Nurses with a similar level of exposure to antineoplastic drugs had a 40% increase in cancer risk.
* Nurses with high exposure to disinfecting and sterilizing chemicals and latex were 50% more likely to have asthma, compared with those with little or no exposure.
* Pregnant nurses with high exposure to ethylene oxide (a sterilizing agent) and antineoplastic drugs reported a 20% higher incidence of miscarriage. Pregnant nurses who had high exposure to sterilizing agents and anesthetic gases and who carried to term were seven to nine times more likely to have children with musculoskeletal birth defects.
The survey was conducted by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) and Health Care without Harm. For more information, visit EWG's Web site, http://www.ewg.org.