The Harsh Reality Is That Today’s Risks Are Too High
Today, due to globally emerging infectious diseases like coronavirus and drug resistant pathogens like clostridioides difficile, exposures to hazards generated by toilet plume aerosols can elicit a greater risk than in years past.
The vast majority of hospital toilets do not have lids, as sprayer fixtures are required for cleaning patient urinals, bedpans, and commodes. Toilet plume aerosol that results from flushing lidless toilets after disposing chemotherapeutically-tainted human waste routinely exposes nurses and caregivers to adverse health effects through direct skin contact and microbial inhalation.
Those aerosols expose people to infectious diseases and harmful chemicals and can result in occupational illness and/or infection.
Research shows that toilet plume aerosol generated from flushing chemotherapeutically-tainted human waste not only contaminates bathroom environments, but also results in chemotherapy being detected in caregivers’ urine samples.
Research also shows that on hospital inpatient units, toilet plume aerosol generated from human waste disposal are important sources of viral contamination and play a significant role in the transmission of infectious diseases such as C-difficile and the norovirus. Viruses, like adenovirus, can be detected on 78% of surfaces and in 81% of aerosol in clinical settings. And, more than 25% of post-flush surface samples can test positive for Clostridioides difficile.
Putting People First
To protect caregivers, the Oncology Nursing Society (ONS) recommends flushing the toilet with the lid down, especially 48-to-72 hours after a patient receives chemotherapy. Since most hospitals do not have protective lids, ONS recommends wearing personal protective equipment such as gloves, chemotherapy gowns, respiratory masks, and face shields. ONS further recommends that nurses apply a plastic-backed chuck pad over the toilet before flushing. However, this action presents concerns about handling safety, disposal and landfill costs, chucks not readily available, and routine noncompliance.
When interviewed in a published survey, nurse managers cited several reasons for caregivers’ noncompliance with personal protective equipment use when disposing human waste including, but not limited to, urgent patient situations, nurses too busy or rushed, and precautions being “too extreme”. In fact, according to EPINet occupational mucocutaenous exposure incident data, when an employee has an exposure, 62% of all exposures were to the eyes, nose, and mouth, and less than 16% were wearing any kind of face protection (e.g., protective eye wear, faceshield, surgical mask).
With this situation in mind, how can nurses and caregivers readily protect themselves from the adverse health effects of disposing chemotherapeutically-tainted human waste as well as help hospitals and health care settings in mitigating the spread of infectious diseases? The early reviews by nurses and other healthcare workers of the Splashblocker® indicate that the SPLASHBLOCKER® may provide a solution to enhance their protection. Improving environmental sustainability and providing cost savings for the hospital by significantly reducing the utilization of “blue chucks” are additional benefits of utilizing the SPLASHBLOCKER® over current practices.
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