I hope you’ve enjoyed the blogs this week! I’ll admit…I’ve had fun coming up with the alliterations! As Infection Control Week wraps up, I’ll end the week with one of my favorite topics when it comes to talking about chemicals. In fact I’ve probably done at least one blog a year since inception that talks about the need to consider the safety aspects of cleaners and disinfectants.
Why am I so passionate? I know the risks of chemical exposure. It dates back to my childhood. My brother, who was a particularly inquisitive (defined as hellion) child, was known to get into things. One of those things was an aerosolized furniture polish that he sprayed in his mouth and inhaled, and ended up with chemical pneumonia. He was 3 and he was lucky. Before you think “how could he be allowed to grab it”, let me expand on the fact that it was on a highboy >5 feet off the floor. To look at this piece of furniture you would not innately see or think there was a way to climb up it with the drawers closed. As I said, he was “inquisitive”….nothing was safe with him.
I also know first-hand the impact that chemicals listed as carcinogens can have the health and well-being of people. Those of you who have seen me speak may have heard the story of people I know who have died from cancer likely associated with the chemicals they worked with. This is a topic I am passionate about. This is a topic that some would say defines me as a zealot. I’m okay with that. I categorically believe there is NO reason to choose a product that can cause harm to those who are tasked to use it if there are safer options available.
I could repeat some of what I have already written, but I hope instead that you’ll indulge me and read or re-read the blogs I have already written. The following are a few of my favorites:
- Safety Indifference Syndrome (which happens to link to several blogs on this topic)
- Burnt Buns Call for Ban on Disinfectants
- Mommy This Water Tastes Funny
- VOCs the Signs and Smells of Summer
- Of Frogs and Boys
If the safety of a product is still not enough for you to consider looking at safer alternatives, then I would recommend that you review the OSHA guidelines. The General Duty Clause states: “Each employer shall furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees.” There is now a plethora of data to support hazards that some chemicals can have on our staff. We are, by law, required to provide a safe working environment. As some of you may know first-hand, OSHA Inspectors may interpret clauses in different ways. I know one colleague who learned this the hard way. He had an inspector that interpreted this clause to include the use of disinfectants in general and particularly when they are being sprayed.
Disinfectants are a key tool in our arsenal in the war on microbes. But we need to ensure that we do not have blinders on and are only looking at products based on what they kill. You may be looking at what HAI-causing pathogen you are most concerned with and not realize the impact (sometimes deadly) that the disinfectant you choose may have on your cleaning or nursing staff.