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Cancer-causing smoke threatens health care workers in ORs

Many workers in California are exposed to carcinogens on the job every day. One cancer-causing agent that might not be well-known is surgical smoke. Health care workers who spend significant time in operating rooms have an elevated risk of contracting cancer. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration says surgical smoke is as hazardous as cigarette smoke.

Different tools and equipment such as lasers and electro-surgery units cause the smoke hazards in ORs, and patients are as exposed as health care workers. A nurse who spends many hours in an operating room commented that the level of smoke in the OR could be compared to an airport lounge where smoking is allowed. She says surgical masks do not protect against the hazards of surgical smoke.

According to the Association of Peri-Operative Nurses, surgical smoke also exposes health care workers to bacteria, viruses, the papillomavirus and other blood-borne particles. This exposure exacerbates the risks significantly. The Journal of Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery reported in 2013 that two laser surgeons were positively diagnosed with HPV-positive tonsillar cancer caused by the papillomavirus.

Along with having to face the cancer-causing risks in operating rooms, health care workers might also have to deal with the financial consequences of medical treatment and lost wages due to temporary disabilities. Fortunately, the California workers' compensation program will have their backs. An attorney who has experience in working on getting maximum applicable benefits for health care workers can help with the administrative and legal proceedings of the benefits claims process.

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