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California Assembly Approves CNA-Sponsored Bill to Reduce Toxic Fumes in Surgical Settings

California Nurses Association Press Release, 5/19/16

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The California Assembly today approved a bill that would mitigate the presence of toxic airborne contaminants that pose a hazard to patients, nurses, and other healthcare professionals, in operating rooms and other surgical settings.

Authored by Assembly member Tony Thurmond, and sponsored by the California Nurses Association/National Nurses United, AB 2272 would require the state to adopt rules to reduce the toxic fumes, also know as “surgical plumes”.  It now heads to the California Senate.

“AB 2272 is a bill that aims to protect our doctors, nurses and patients from noxious, carcinogenic surgical plume in the operating room,” Thurmond said after the vote.

“This workplace health and safety bill is designed to ensure that healthcare workers and patients are not unnecessarily exposed to the contagions that are carried by surgical plume.  A fair balance of implementing adequate training and proper protocol with plume evacuation is a simple solution to health risks that doctors and nurses face daily.”

The plumes are the smoke byproduct of laser or electro surgical procedures that result from the removal or burning (cauterization) of human tissue in a wide range of medical procedures that occur in hospital operating rooms or surgery centers.

While microscopic, the toxic gases, plumes, typically contain infectious particles with chemicals or biological agents that can cause cancer, infection with viruses that can result in acute or chronic pulmonary or skin disorders, including pneumonia, asthma, and other health hazards to the patient and all medical personnel in the room.

AB 2272 specifically would direct California’s Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board to adopt regulations to mandate removal of noxious airborne contaminants, surgical plumes in health facilities. It would require the use of smoke evacuators that capture and neutralize at least 95 percent of the smoke at the site of origin before it makes contact with patients or health personnel.

Nationally the Occupational Safety and Health Administration estimates 500,000 workers are exposed to the fumes every year.

“California can become a leader in reducing surgical site infections and improving health and safety standards for patients and caregivers alike,” says CNA co-president Malinda Markowitz, RN.

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