Surgical smoke is a health hazard that poses risks to thousands of health care workers each year. The smoke, which is a byproduct of surgery using a laser or electrosurgical unit, has been linked to health problems such as eye, nose, and throat irritation; emphysema; asthma; and chronic bronchitis. While the risks of surgical smoke are well known, research suggests that this knowledge is often not conveyed to health care workers.
Our firm is investigating potential lawsuits on behalf of individuals who developed health problems related to surgical smoke. If you or someone you know has been affected by exposure to surgical smoke, please contact Parker Waichman LLP today.
Study: Health Care Workers Never Trained on Risks of Surgical Smoke
According to an article published on the Safety and Health magazine website, the official magazine of the National Safety Council Congress & Expo, a National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) study presented November 3, 2015 at the American Public Health Association’s annual meeting highlighted the preventable risks of surgical smoke. Surgical smoke is a known hazard, but the study suggests that many health care workers are never trained on its dangers. In fact, nearly half of the respondents in a national survey said they were never trained on the risks of surgical smoke.
Surgical smoke is produced during surgery in which a laser or electrosurgical unit is used. Surgical smoke may contain toxic vapors such as benzene, formaldehyde, and viruses. Potential health problems include eye, nose, and throat irritation; emphysema; asthma; and chronic bronchitis.
To mitigate the effects of surgical smoke, experts recommend using several different ventilation methods. In the national survey, however, about half of respondents said local exhaust ventilation was always used during laser surgery. For electrosurgery, 15 percent said local exhaust ventilation was always used. NIOSH epidemiologist and study author Andrea Steege said in a press release, “It is important for employers and workers to understand the risks and take steps to put recommended controls into practice.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website, research shows that surgical smoke “can contain toxic gases and vapors such as benzene, hydrogen cyanide, and formaldehyde, bioaerosols, dead and live cellular material (including blood fragments), and viruses. At high concentrations the smoke causes ocular and upper respiratory tract irritation in health care personnel, and creates visual problems for the surgeon. The smoke has unpleasant odors and has been shown to have mutagenic potential.” To prevent these risks, the multiple forms of ventilation recommended include a combination of general ventilation and local exhaust ventilation.
Legal Help for Surgical Smoke Victims
If you or someone you know has suffered from health problems related to surgical smoke such as eye, nose, and throat irritation; emphysema; asthma; and chronic bronchitis, you may have valuable legal rights. Our firm offers free, no-obligation case evaluations. For more information, fill out our online form or call one of our experienced attorneys today at 1-800-YOURLAWYER (1-800-968-7529).