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Health hazard evaluation report: HETA-91-293-2203, Valley Hospital, Palmer, Alaska.
Shults RA; Seitz TA
Cincinnati, OH: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Centers for Disease Control, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, HETA 91-293-2203, 1992 Apr; :1-33
In response to a request from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers an investigation was made into a possible kidney cancer cluster at the Valley Hospital (SIC-8062), Palmer, Alaska. Workers had expressed concern over possible exposures to ethylene- oxide (75218) (EtO) at the facility. The hospital employed about 154 workers. A new wing had been added to the hospital in 1983 and from that time on there were complaints that diesel fumes and other noxious odors often could be detected throughout the hospital. In 1983 there had been an alleged EtO release during which 11 employees had reported to the emergency room after being sickened by fumes. Four deaths had been reported in the employee cohort, two of which were due to renal cell carcinoma. Four occurrences of cancer were identified in the 104 surviving cohort members who were contacted. The gas sterilizer was installed in 1983 and a number of changes had been made to reduce employee exposure. Environmental monitoring was conducted during two sterilization/aeration cycles. EtO was not detected in the five personal breathing zone air samples obtained. Only two of 15 area air samples contained detectable levels of EtO. Both were collected at the sterilizer gas cylinder valves, indicating leakage. The authors conclude that the two kidney cancer deaths appear to be an excess over the expected rate; however, the statistical methods are not reliable for such a small population size. The authors recommend improvements in the EtO monitoring program at this facility, as deficiencies were noted in environmental monitoring, reporting, training, and preventive maintenance.
NIOSH-Author; NIOSH-Health-Hazard-Evaluation; NIOSH-Technical-Assistance-Report; HETA-91-293-2203; Region-10; Hazard-Confirmed; Health-care-personnel; Occupational-exposure; Cancer-rates; Toxic-gases; Indoor-air-pollution; Indoor-environmental-quality; Author Keywords: general medical and surgical hospital; gas sterilization; ethylene oxide; EtO; central supply; health care workers; cancer cluster; renal cell carcinoma; mortality
Field Studies; Hazard Evaluation and Technical Assistance
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National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
Page last reviewed: September 2, 2020
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division