Chemo Drugs and Chemical Sterilizing Agents
I originally found this story while surfing yahoo news. Reuters Health reports that a recent study has shown that nurses are twice as likely to have a miscarriage with exposure to chemotherapy drugs or sterilizing agents. The survey included 7,500 nurses who had a pregnancy between 1993 and 2002. Chemo drugs focus on targeting and killing rapidly dividing cells such as those in a tumor.
Results of the survey showed that 1 in 10 nurses had a miscarriage before the half way point of their pregnancy.
Nurses who handled chemo therapy drugs for more than an hour a day however, had rates that doubled (2 out of every 10 nurses). Nurses that were exposed to x-rays had a 30% increased risk of miscarriage1.
What are some of the more commonly used chemo drugs?
- Doxorubicin (Taxotere) – Breast cancer, lung, and prostate
- Fluorouracil (5-FU) – Colon, breast, stomach cancer
- Vincristine (Oncovin, Vincasar PFS) – Luekemia and lymphoma
- Vinblastine (Velban)- Lymphomas
The American Cancer Society’s website listed some of the side effects of chemo drugs, which include:
- Fertility problems
- Nausea and vomiting
- Emotional changes
- Mood changes
- Changes in sex life
- Hair loss
Nurses who handled sterilizing agents such as ethelyne oxide or formaldehyde more than an hour a day had double the risk of miscarriage1. Formaldehyde is widely used in the US, and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) recently recently reclassified formaldehyde as a human carcinogen back in 20065. It has also been concluded that ‘‘strong but not sufficient evidence” for an association between leukemia and work exposure.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency has classified formaldehyde as a probable human carcinogen, which means there’s evidence that is can cause cancer in animals, but not enough evidence to show it being a carcinogen in humans6. Health problems associated with inhalation of formaldehyde can include burning and watery eyes, burning sensation of the nose and throat, coughing, and difficulty breathing. More serious effects can include severe pain, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Changes in Occupational Employee Wellness
One problem I have with this issue is the length of time towards exposure to these drugs. Nurses who have been working in the field for 20 or thirty years may suffer the most due to prolonged exposure to these chemicals. According to Caring4Cancer, an organization dedicated to providing support and knowledge to cancer patients, “Side effects may occur just after treatment (days or weeks) or they may occur later (months or years) after the chemotherapy has been given.”2
It is our responsibility to protect the individuals who protect us when we are sick. OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, is responsible for ensuring that employee have safe working conditions and that companies provide that to them. If a substances is considered to be that dangerous, then it should be handled like it is dangerous. Better safety precautions and education on the risks of these dangers for nurses should be a priority. My background does include management and human resources, so I am very aware of the need for employee safety and protection.
Read the original story here – http://news.yahoo.com/nurses-miscarriages-linked-chemicals-172012874.html
The information contained in this post is not to be regarded an medical diagnosis or advice. Please consult your primary healthcare provider for any medical issues pertaining to your health.
1.Grens, K. 2012. Nurses’ miscarriages linked to chemicals at work. Retrieved January 15, 2012 from http://news.yahoo.com/nurses-miscarriages-linked-chemicals-172012874.html
2.Common Chemotherapy Drugs and Side Effects. Retrieved January 15, 2012 from http://www.caring4cancer.com/go/cancer/treatment/chemotherapy/common-chemotherapy-drugs-and-side-effects.htm
3. Maria Rita Carvalho Garbi Novaes; Fabiana Valadares; Mariana Campos Reis; Daniella Rodrigues Gonçalves; Marilia da Cunha Menezes .The effects of dietary supplementation with Agaricales mushrooms and other medicinal fungi on breast cancer: evidence-based medicine. Clinics vol.66 no.12 São Paulo 2011
4. American Cancer Society. 2011. What about chemo side effects? Retrieved January 15, 2012 from http://www.cancer.org/Treatment/TreatmentsandSideEffects/TreatmentTypes/Chemotherapy/WhatItIsHowItHelps/chemo-what-it-is-chemo-side-effects
5. Zhang L, Freeman LE, Nakamura J, Hecht SS, Vandenberg JJ, Smith MT, Sonawane BR.. (2011).Formaldehyde and leukemia: epidemiology, potential mechanisms, and implications for risk assessment. Environ Mol Mutagen. 2010 Apr;51(3):181-91.
6. Illinois Deparment of Public Health Fact Sheet. FORMALDEHYDE. http://www.idph.state.il.us/envhealth/factsheets/formaldehyde.htm