Why worry about surgical plume?

By Daniel R Palmerton

The following document was created by CDC/NIOSH as a result of several health hazard evaluations that were completed in US healthcare facilities. The evaluations were conducted by NIOSH, in response to OSHA complaints from hospital administrators and clinical team members regarding their exposure to surgical plume. Environmental air sampling studies were performed at each worksite that reported concerns. The results were compiled and used as evidence for the drafting of the HC11 document.

Hazard Control: HC11 is a brief, straight forward document that describes control techniques designed to substantially reduce hazardous exposure to surgical plume by surgical team members and patients, in all healthcare practice settings where energy based devices are in use.

This would not be so remarkable apart from the estimate that at the time of its writing, half a million healthcare workers would be exposed to the hazards of surgical plume! What makes that even more incredible is that while HC11 was first published in 1996, some of the evaluations leading up to it, date back to 1987 - 6 years after the first published study by Tomita et al; describing the equivalence of mutagenic material in both cigarette and surgical plumes.

This demonstrates the need for our One Voice Advocacy through education and support of strategic programs to eliminate or mitigate the risks and hazards of plume. We believe that the health and safety for both staff and patients can be greatly improved during surgical interventions. Plume mitigation does not have to be complicated or expensive, and it does not change surgical techniques or procedures. Safer surgeries can be accomplished with minimal cost or effort, through the use of equipment that many facilities already have or is readily available in the marketplace.

Please print, read and distribute the NIOSH HC11 document and join our efforts by becoming a member of the International Council on Surgical Plume!

Click the graphic below to download the NIOSH HC11 PDF document.

Download NIOSH HC11