Exposure to volatile organic compounds in healthcare settings

This study was undertaken to identify and summarise volatile organic compound (VOC) exposure profiles of healthcare occupations. Personal (n=143) and mobile area (n=207) evacuated canisters were collected and analysed by a gas chromatograph/mass spectrometer to assess exposures to 14 VOCs among 14 healthcare occupations in five hospitals. Participants were volunteers identified by their supervisors. Summary statistics were calculated by occupation. Principal component analysis (PCA) was used to reduce the 14 analyte inputs to five orthogonal factors and identify occupations that were associated with these factors. Linear regressions were used to assess the association between personal and mobile area samples. Exposure profiles differed among occupations; ethanol had the highest geometric mean (GM) among nursing assistants (4900 and 1900µg/m(3), personal and area), and 2-propanol had the highest GM among medical equipment preparers (4600 and 2000µg/m(3), personal and area). The highest total personal VOC exposures were among nursing assistants (9200µg/m(3)), licensed practical nurses (8700µg/m(3)) and medical equipment preparers (7900µg/m(3)). The influence of the PCA factors developed from personal exposure estimates varied by occupation, which enabled a comparative assessment of occupations. For example, factor 1, indicative of solvent use, was positively correlated with clinical laboratory and floor stripping/waxing occupations and tasks. Overall, a significant correlation was observed (r=0.88) between matched personal and mobile area samples, but varied considerably by analyte (r=0.23-0.64). the authors concluded that healthcare workers are exposed to a variety of chemicals that vary with the activities and products used during activities. These VOC profiles are useful for estimating exposures for occupational hazard ranking for industrial hygienists as well as epidemiological studies.

Authors: LeBouf RF, Virji MA, Saito R, Henneberger PK, Simcox N, Stefaniak AB. ;Full Source: Occupational & Environmental Medicine. 2014 Sep;71(9):642-50. doi: 10.1136/oemed-2014-102080. Epub 2014 Jul 10. ;