Health Care Workers: Chemical Hazards

Surgical instruments

Chemical Hazards

Many hazardous chemicals are present in healthcare settings, which may pose an exposure risk for healthcare workers, patients, and others. These chemicals are used to do the following:

  • Treat patients (e.g., antineoplastic drugs, aerosolized medications, anesthetic gases)
  • Clean, disinfect and sterilize work surfaces (e.g., phenolics, quaternary ammonium compounds, bleach) and medical supplies and instruments (e.g., ethylene oxide, glutaraldehyde)
  • As a fixative for tissue specimens (e.g., xylene, toluene, formaldehyde)

Surgical smoke generated by lasers and electrosurgical devices during surgical procedures contains many chemical substances, in addition to viruses and bacteria.

Hazardous Drugs

Ethylene Oxide



Anesthetic Gases

Surgical Smoke


General resources