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Biopharmaceutical workplace hazards: dangerous drugs

People who work to produce life-saving medications may enjoy job satisfaction that is not common to other fields. As Choose: New Jersey points out, because the state is known for its significant contributions to the biopharmaceutical industry, thousands of residents are part of the process of developing and manufacturing these drugs. In fact, there are over 400 biotechnology companies in the state, employing more than 116,000 workers.

Although drugs are invaluable in health care, the U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention points out that many of them are still considered hazardous to workers. Criteria that may result in the identification of a potentially dangerous drug includes the following:

  •          Ability to alter cell structure and lead to cancer
  •          Toxicity to embryos or fetuses that lead to birth defects
  •          Adverse effects on fertility or other reproduction factors
  •          Harmfulness to specific organs of the body
  •          Ability to cause cell mutations

Not only should workers receive training on how to handle these medications safely, they should also be educated in the proper personal protective equipment, and how to wear it. For example, a person handling certain substances may need to wear covers over the hair and shoes, a head cover, an impermeable gown and two sets of gloves. Each of these items would then need to be removed and disposed of or laundered in a very specific way.

An initial medical assessment and then ongoing health monitoring is recommended for employees in order to record any history of exposure and potential effects. This would include a record of the substances the worker comes into contact with, as well as physical examinations.

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