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Am J Health Syst Pharm. 1996 Nov 15;53(22):2713-23.

Monitoring occupational exposure to cancer chemotherapy drugs.

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  • 1National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Houston, TX, USA.


Reports of the health effects of handling cytotoxic drugs and compliance with guidelines for handling these agents are briefly reviewed, and studies using analytical and biological methods of detecting exposure are evaluated. There is little conclusive evidence of detrimental health effects from occupational exposure to cytotoxic drugs. Work practices have improved since the issuance of guidelines for handling these drugs, but compliance with the recommended practices is still inadequate. Of 64 reports published since 1979 on studies of workers' exposure to these drugs, 53 involved studies of changes in cellular or molecular endpoints (biological markers) and 12 described chemical analyses of drugs or their metabolites in urine (2 involved both, and 2 reported the same study). The primary biological markers used were urine mutagenicity, sister chromatid exchange, and chromosomal aberrations; other studies involved formation of micronuclei and measurements of urinary thioethers. The studies had small sample sizes, and the methods were qualitative, nonspecific, subject to many confounders, and possibly not sensitive enough to detect most occupational exposures. Since none of the currently available biological and analytical methods is sufficiently reliable or reproducible for routine monitoring of exposure in the workplace, further studies using these methods are not recommended; efforts should focus instead on wide-spread implementation of improved practices for handling cytotoxic drugs.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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