Home About us Editorial board Search Ahead of print Current issue Archives Submit article Instructions Subscribe Contacts Login 
  • Users Online: 512
  • Home
  • Print this page
  • Email this page

 Table of Contents  
Year : 2017  |  Volume : 4  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 120-121

Doing the dirty work: Who handles antineoplastic drug contaminated excreta and do they do it safely?

School of Nursing, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC, USA

Date of Submission14-Feb-2017
Date of Acceptance20-Feb-2017
Date of Web Publication13-Apr-2017

Correspondence Address:
AnnMarie Lee Walton
School of Nursing, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, NC
Login to access the Email id

Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/apjon.apjon_8_17

Rights and Permissions

How to cite this article:
Walton AL. Doing the dirty work: Who handles antineoplastic drug contaminated excreta and do they do it safely?. Asia Pac J Oncol Nurs 2017;4:120-1

How to cite this URL:
Walton AL. Doing the dirty work: Who handles antineoplastic drug contaminated excreta and do they do it safely?. Asia Pac J Oncol Nurs [serial online] 2017 [cited 2021 Dec 5];4:120-1. Available from: https://www.apjon.org/text.asp?2017/4/2/120/204501

Antineoplastic drugs (ADs) given to combat cancer, can increase the risk of secondary cancers in those that receive them. ADs are also a hazard to those health-care workers who have long-term exposure to the agents.[1] Health-care workers can become exposed to ADs through spills and splashes, during the administration of the agents and even during exposure to the excreta of patients (most commonly urine and stool).[1] Levels of AD retained in urine, stool, and vomit of patients vary in amount and duration based on the agent, and personal characteristics of the patient. The active drug can be found in bodily fluids for at least 48 hours and up to 7 days post-administration.[2] Recent research is also beginning to document that ADs are in the work environment and being metabolized by health-care workers who are not coming into direct contact with the agents or the bodily fluids of patients receiving them such as unit clerks, volunteers, and dieticians.[3] Prior research has documented adverse effects of exposure to ADs for health-care workers including skin rashes, infertility, birth defects, miscarriage, and an increased risk for cancer, notably leukemia.[4],[5],[6],[7] The research that has been done to date has primarily focused on pharmacists and nurses who are preparing and administering these agents and less on nursing assistants (NAs) who are handling the excreta of patients receiving them.

In the United States alone, it is estimated that more than 1,420,570 people work as NAs.[8] NAs provide care under the direction of a licensed health-care provider. They are often responsible for the majority of assistance with activities of daily living for patients which includes feeding, bathing, toileting, dressing, repositioning patients, and changing their linens. Nurses often delegate tasks like assistance with toileting to NAs. As suggested in an ethnographic study by Jervis, because of their frequent contact with excreta, NAs are at risk of being viewed as “polluted people” who do tasks that are unpleasant to nurses.[9] However, do NAs know how to safely handle the excreta of patients receiving ADs? In the U.S., federal regulations mandate that Certified NAs receive at least 75 hours of training and 16 hours of clinical training,[10] but when it comes to oncology-specific education for NAs, such as the hazards involved in exposure to ADs, recommendations for safe handling of excreta contaminated with ADs or even required provision of personal protective equipment (PPE) by employers, no mandates exist.

Recommendations for safe handling of hazardous drugs and the excreta of patients receiving them exist from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)[1] and are based on the results of research. A single case study described the effects experienced by one NA exposure to ADs from contact with patient excreta,[11] but few studies have included NAs in their sampling frame.[12],[13] No study has been specifically focused on AD exposure for this large sector of the health-care workforce. Based on these limited findings, NIOSH recommends that NAs use chemoprotective PPE when handling excreta or linens of patients who have received ADs within the last 48 hours.[1] These behaviors include two pairs of chemotherapy rated gloves, a disposable gown, and a face shield if splashing is nonabsorbent.[1] The actual practice of NAs with regard to the handling of excreta has not been examined. While factors that influence the use of PPE when handling chemotherapy have been examined among nurses,[14] NAs have never been queried about what influences their use of PPE.

We need to begin to think about exposures for NAs who have less education and training than nurses and are often doing “the dirty work.” Who handles the excreta of patients receiving ADs? How do they do so? Were they trained? By whom? Can you think of how their practice could be safer? Do you have any best practices to share with others when it comes to training assistive personnel to handle AD contaminated excreta safely? We have garnered a basic understanding from the literature, but there is much more to learn from what and who is missing. It's time to begin to critically examine exposures for those handling AD contaminated excreta in our practice settings.

Financial support and sponsorship

Dr. Walton was funded by a training grant (T32NR007091) from the National Institutes of Nursing Research, National Institutes of Health.

Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

Department of Health and Human Services. Alert: Preventing occupational exposures to antineoplastic and other hazardous drugs in health care settings. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. ed. Cincinnati, OH: NIOSH- Publications Dissemination; 2004.  Back to cited text no. 1
Oncology Nursing Society. Safe Handling of Hazardous Drugs. 2nd ed. Pittsburgh, PA: Oncology Nursing Scoiety Publications Department; 2011.  Back to cited text no. 2
Hon CY, Teschke K, Shen H, Demers PA, Venners S. Antineoplastic drug contamination in the urine of Canadian healthcare workers. Int Arch Occup Environ Health 2015;88:933-41.  Back to cited text no. 3
Rogers B, Emmett EA. Handling antineoplastic agents: Urine mutagenicity in nurses. Image J Nurs Sch 1987;19:108-13.  Back to cited text no. 4
Connor TH, Lawson CC, Polovich M, McDiarmid MA. Reproductive health risks associated with occupational exposures to antineoplastic drugs in health care settings: A review of the evidence. J Occup Environ Med 2014;56:901-10.  Back to cited text no. 5
Lawson CC, Rocheleau CM, Whelan EA, Lividoti Hibert EN, Grajewski B, Spiegelman D, et al. Occupational exposures among nurses and risk of spontaneous abortion. Am J Obstet Gynecol 2012;206:327.e1-8.  Back to cited text no. 6
McDiarmid MA, Oliver MS, Roth TS, Rogers B, Escalante C. Chromosome 5 and 7 abnormalities in oncology personnel handling anticancer drugs. J Occup Environ Med 2010;52:1028-34.  Back to cited text no. 7
Bureau of Labor Statistics. May, 2015 National Industry Specific Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates; 2016.  Back to cited text no. 8
Jervis LL. The pollution of incontinence and the dirty work of caregiving in a U.S. nursing home. Med Anthropol Q 2001;15:84-99.  Back to cited text no. 9
Wright B. In Brief: Training Programs for Certified Nursing Assistants. Washington D.C.: AARP Public Policy Institute; 2006.  Back to cited text no. 10
Kusnetz E, Condon M. Acute effects from occupational exposure to antineoplastic drugs in a para-professional health care worker. Am J Ind Med 2003;44:107-9.  Back to cited text no. 11
Hon CY, Teschke K, Demers PA, Venners S. Antineoplastic drug contamination on the hands of employees working throughout the hospital medication system. Ann Occup Hyg 2014;58:761-70.  Back to cited text no. 12
Hon CY, Teschke K, Shen H. Health care workers' knowledge, perceptions, and behaviors regarding antineoplastic drugs: Survey from British Columbia, Canada. J Occup Environ Hyg 2015;12:669-77.  Back to cited text no. 13
Polovich M, Clark PC. Factors influencing oncology nurses' use of hazardous drug safe-handling precautions. Oncol Nurs Forum 2012;39:E299-309.  Back to cited text no. 14

This article has been cited by
1 Surface Contamination by Antineoplastics in Hospitals: An Observational Study for Mapping of Potential Contamination Associated with Handling Excreta of Babies through Diaper Management
Marie Palamini,Geneviève Mercier,Jean-François Bussières
Pharmaceutical Technology in Hospital Pharmacy. 2020; 0(0)
[Pubmed] | [DOI]


Similar in PUBMED
   Search Pubmed for
   Search in Google Scholar for
Access Statistics
Email Alert *
Add to My List *
* Registration required (free)

  In this article

 Article Access Statistics
    PDF Downloaded209    
    Comments [Add]    
    Cited by others 1    

Recommend this journal