Why are hospitals a concern?
Hospitals promote good health, healing, and recovery from surgery and disease. Hospitals, like any other building, can have problems with indoor air quality, drinking water quality, and use of cleaning products and pesticides. In addition, hospitals have some unique environmental concerns that can affect staff, patients, or both, as well as the community.
Hospital workers can be exposed to a surprising number of chemicals that may be harmful to their health. Some of those chemicals are used in hospital equipment, including mercury, used in some thermometers; ethylene oxide and glutaraldehyde, both used to sterilize medical equipment; and formaldehyde, used to preserve tissues in medical labs and mortuaries. Hospital workers may be exposed to anesthetic gases that leak during medical procedures. Some of the chemicals in those gases may cause nausea, dizziness, sterility, miscarriages, birth defects, cancer, and liver and kidney disease. Hospital workers may handle hazardous drugs used for cancer chemotherapy, antiviral medication, hormones, and other substances. These hazardous drugs may cause skin rashes, infertility, miscarriage, birth defects, and possibly leukemia or other cancers. If hospital workers use latex gloves, they may develop latex allergies or occupational asthma.
Patients may be exposed to the same chemicals as hospital workers. In addition, they may use plastic medical devices that could contain phthalates.
If a hospital incinerates its medical waste, hospital workers and the community may be exposed to air pollutants emitted by the incinerator. Medical waste needs to be handled with care to protect workers, patients and the community.
This description is based on the information found in the Web links listed with this topic.
Web Links from MedlinePlus (National Library of Medicine)
Occupational Health for Healthcare Providers
Health Care Without Harm home page (Health Care Without Harm)
Health-care Waste (World Health Organization)
Health. Haz-Map Occupational Health Info (National Library of Medicine)
Healthcare (Occupational Safety and Health Administration)
Healthcare Providers' Computer Keyboards and Bacteria Hazards Fact Sheet (Texas Department of Insurance) (PDF — 1.17 MB)
Healthcare Workers (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health)
Hospital eTool (Occupational Safety and Health Administration)
Medical X-Rays. RadTown USA (Environmental Protection Agency)
Mercury in Health Care (World Health Organization) (PDF — 32.69 KB)
Nursing Home eTool: Occupational Hazards in Long Term Care (Occupational Safety and Health Administration)
Nursing Homes and Personal Care Facilities (Occupational Safety and Health Administration)
Chemicals in the Hospital
Are these chemicals in MY community?
Bisphenol A (BPA)
Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers (PBDEs)
Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs)
Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs)
Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)
Last Updated: January 11, 2016