Implement Air Purification Solutions to Prevent Hazardous Drug Exposure

Implement air purification solutions to prevent hazardous drug exposure 1

While drugs can help patients recover from devastating ailments and diseases, the drugs administered to patients may harm healthcare workers. Long term exposure to these drugs, such as those used for chemotherapy, could result in workers themselves developing negative health effects. An estimated 8 million healthcare workers may be exposed to hazardous drugs that may be harmful to their health, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). Workplace exposure may result in acute and chronic health conditions, including skin rashes, and staff may even develop cancers such as leukemia.

Healthcare staff who may work in a position that involves exposure to these types of drugs include: pharmacists and pharmacy technicians, nurses, physicians and physician assistants as well as operating room personnel.

“Workers may be exposed to hazardous drugs when they create aerosols, generate dust, clean up spills, or touch contaminated surfaces when compounding, administering, or disposing of hazardous drugs or patient waste,” according to NIOSH.

NIOSH said the amount of exposure to hazardous drugs determines how toxic they may be to healthcare staff. In knowing these health risks, employers may want to encourage workers to protect themselves using engineering controls and by following administrative policies when handling these drugs.

Techniques and equipment to prevent exposure to hazardous drugs

​NIOSH recommends that employers perform a risk assessment of the workplace to identify the drugs that workers will be exposed to, such as the types of drugs that are administered and handled. The agency recommends that employers determine the working environment, including the physical layout of work areas. In this way, healthcare facilities can better improve the safety procedures and utilize the engineering controls they have for hazardous drugs. 

Workers could choose to implement closed system transfer devices (CSTDs), which are becoming increasingly used in hospitals, according to Pharmacy Practice News. A CSTD is a medical device to transfer drugs without hazardous drugs or fumes from escaping. While hospitals could purchase these devices, healthcare employers could also consider employing other engineering controls that focus on cleaning air to prevent exposure.

When drug preparation causes hazardous emissions, air purification is key. Removing toxic fumes before they enter a worker’s breathing space is crucial for ensuring employee wellness. Indoor air cleaning equipment such as our 989 model will help pharmacists and healthcare facilities maintain a healthy IAQ.

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Combustible Dust Hazards, Unseen Explosive Threats


On the big screen, fantastic blasts make for an exciting cinematic experience. But in real life, explosions are something to be feared and avoided with great vigilance.

Triggers for workplace blasts fall into two categories: fumes and dust. While fumes can often be detected by smell, combustible dust hazards are much more insidious. Combustible dust particles can hide in workshop and factory nooks and crannies and can ignite with only the smallest of sparks.  Combustible dust hazards are imminent when the right conditions are present – the result of which can be a massively destructive and deadly explosion. Disasters in production facilities from China to California and Tennessee to Tanzania underscore the real threat posed by combustible dust hazards in the workplace

Pharmaceutical companies are particularly exposed due to the materials used in the formulation of their products. Ingredients used in the making of oral dosage products are finely divided solid particles containing flammable oxidants in dust form. These powdery bits can linger in the atmosphere, then fall and hide on heat-inducing processing equipment which can cause an explosion. As a result, new particles are sent into the air which can ignite, creating residual particle matter which can then cause additional explosions. These secondary blasts are typically more destructive because they are less localized.

combustible dust in pharmaceutical industry

To understand why the pharmaceutical industry is at particular risk, one must be reminded of the formula for particulate matter combustion using the “Dust Explosion Pentagon” as a guide. The five factors, oxygen, heat, fuel, dispersion, and confinement all exist in the formulation and processing of oral products at pharmaceutical facilities. The ignition of concealed ingredient dust particulates is a frightening and very real possibility.

While pharma manufacturers are aware of combustible dust hazards as they relate to the products they process, containment of ingredient-based particulate matter remains a constant battle. At Air Systems Inc., we have the experience, depth of knowledge, and superior products to protect pharmaceutical companies and their employees from the threat of at-work explosions. Contact us today to set up an appointment with one of our air quality specialists.

Best Practices for Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Includes Indoor Air Quality Controls

As part of the quality monitoring process for pharmaceutical products, maintaining a sterile environment is crucial. Best practices for pharmaceutical manufacturers should include the following clean air measures:

1. Control Contaminants

Pharmaceutical manufacturers must establish primary engineering controls (PECs) to limit the risk of contamination within laboratories or other health care facilities, according to the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP). PECs include high-efficiency particle pharmaceutical air filters, which extract particles that could act as both chemical and physical contaminants.

2. Maintain Clean Areas

For its list of pharmaceutical manufacturers’ best practices, the World Health Organization (WHO) suggests that companies and labs designate clean areas where workers are able to practice sterile preparations. WHO said that these areas should have an air supply that is funneled through an air purification system that meets efficiency and performance requirements. It is also crucial that areas have set standards for cleanliness. For the entrances to clean areas, there should be airlocks for personnel and other necessary equipment and materials used for manufacturing to go through.

3. Pharmaceutical Air Filters By Dry Heat 

For liquid materials that are nonaqueous or products made from dry powder, WHO recommends that they are sterilized by dry heat. Pharmaceutical Air filters will ensure the air used for this process is sterile. Dry heat sterilization requires air to circulate in a chamber while implementing positive pressure to block non-sterile air from entering this space. The air is heated to kill microorganisms and decontaminate materials that could not be sterilized by conventional methods, such as through steam or chemical sterilizers.

4. Use For Changing Rooms

WHO said changing rooms should be flushed with air that has been purified. Similar to the procedures for designated clean areas, changing rooms should also include airlocks. In this way, workers wearing protective clothing can put on or take off their clothes in separate areas, preventing other spaces from being contaminated with microorganisms and particles like dust. 

5. Protect Worker Health and Safety

Workers in the pharmaceutical manufacturing space routinely handle potentially hazardous substances, such as nanomaterials, which could pose a risk to their health. Personnel in the pharmaceutical industry often work with nanoparticles, which are sized on a near-atomic scale to be used in the creation of new and innovative products. However, due to their tiny size, nanomaterials can also be inhaled if they are not isolated or contained through pharmaceutical air filters, resulting in inflammation or damage to the lung cells and tissues, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

However, to protect workers from nanoparticles and other hazardous materials and chemicals, regulatory organizations list pharmaceutical air filters as effective engineering controls. OSHA recommends HEPA pharmaceutical air filters to remove nanoparticles, following research from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).

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