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Toxic Chemicals Found in Seattle Physician and Nurse:
Report Shows Need For Better Laws Regulating Chemicals
Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) in partnership with the American Nurses Association (ANA) and Health Care Without Harm (HCWH) released the “Hazardous Chemicals In Health Care” report today, detailing the first investigation focusing on environmental chemicals found in the bodies of health care professionals. The study found that all of the 20 study participants had toxic chemicals in their bodies and that each participant had at least 24 individual chemicals present. Four of these chemicals are on the recently released Environmental Protection Agency list of priority chemicals for regulation. All of these chemicals have been associated with chronic illness and physical disorders in humans and animals.
Twelve doctors and eight nurses, two in each of 10 states - Alaska, California, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Oregon, and Washington - were tested for the presence of six major chemical types used in the health care setting that are associated with health problems and are pervasive in the health care environment. The physicians and nurses volunteered for the study to learn more about themselves, but also to understand more about the environments in which they work and the potential impacts on their health as well as their patients.
Richard Grady, MD, a Seattle-based pediatric urologist served as Co-Principle Investigator and Physician On-Record for the national study and commented: “Many health care providers are knowledgeable about environmental toxicants. This study demonstrates that despite that knowledge, exposures to environmental chemicals are ubiquitous and perhaps unavoidable under our current system of regulation. These findings have broader implications about our ability to limit exposures to these chemicals based on individual action.” Dr. Grady continued: “40 years after the release of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, our consciences are being more fully made aware of the fact that we are creatures of the environments in which we live and work, and that we are a vulnerable part of the natural world.”
The “Hazardous Chemicals in Health Care” report provides indications of what the broader health care community may be experiencing. The project tested for 62 distinct chemicals in six categories: bisphenol A (BPA), mercury, perflourinated compounds, phthalates, polybrominated dipheynl ethers, and triclosan. In addition to being commonly found in the community, the chemicals tested in this investigation are used in products common to the health care setting, from baby bottles, hand sanitizer, and medical gauges, to industrial paints, IV bags and tubes and stain-resistant clothing. Study participant Donna Yancey, a registered nurse at Seattle Children’s Hospital stated: “I was not surprised but expected I would have a bio-load. I have worked 45 years in the health care environment where chemicals abound from cleaning materials to plastics.”
In addition to data on testing, the report includes recommendations on how health care professionals can protect their patients and themselves by avoiding the use of toxic chemicals. The study also urges all Americans to get involved in the decision making process and work to support policy changes to key pieces of state and federal legislation. In Washington State, advocates are currently working at the state level to advance legislation which will significantly curtail the use of BPA in consumer products, specifically children’s ones and as well at the federal level to secure significant reform of the Toxic Substances Control Act in the form of a passing a strong Kid Safe Chemicals Act later this year.
“This study highlights the fact that we are exposing people to chemicals without fully understanding the possible health effects. The efficacy and safety of medical drugs are carefully evaluated by the FDA; we need similar safety assessment of the industrial chemicals that we are exposed to without our consent,” said Steven G. Gilbert, PhD, DABT, President Board of Directors, Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility.
The “Hazardous Chemicals In Health Care” report can be found here: www.psr.org/chemicalreport.