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Publication Date: December 2007

Publisher(s): Environmental Working Group

Author(s): Rebecca Sutton; Jane Houlihan

Topic: Health (Physicians, nurses, and other health personnel)
Labor (Occupational health and safety)

Keywords: nurses; occupational exposure

Type: Report


Caring for patients during a typical workday, nurses handle dozens of chemicals, drugs, and other agents that are designed to prevent, diagnose, control, or cure diseases and other health conditions. These therapeutic agents can heal, but have side effects as well. For most patients, the benefits of tightly controlled doses usually outweigh the risks. But the same may not be true for nurses.

Nurses absorb a small fraction of the substances they use to care for patients, day after day. They incur risks from these exposures in the absence of benefits. But the magnitude of health problems nurses may face from their diverse, chronic, workplace exposures to hazardous cleaning, disinfecting, and sterilizing agents, radiation, mercury, potent medications, and other chemicals has never been studied.