Safe Handling of Hazardous Chemotherapy Drugs in Limited-Resource Settings


The toxic effects of antineoplastic drugs used for cancer treatment have been well known since their introduction in the 1940s. However, beyond the patient safety concerns arising from the necessary therapeutic use of these drugs, the occupational risks to health care workers handling these drugs in the course of their duties still need to be fully addressed.

Worldwide, more than 11 million new cases of cancer are diagnosed each year, and that number is expected to rise to 16 million by 2020 (WHO 2005). Treatment for many of these cases relies principally upon antineoplastic chemotherapy (Chabner et al. 1996). With approximately100 different antineoplastic drugs now in use (NIOSH 2004, 2012) and many more under development, chemotherapy has opened new avenues, providing remission from the disease and the possibility of a cure in some cases. Addressing the formidable toxicity of these drugs, however, has been an ongoing challenge for clinicians and, more recently, for the occupational health community...