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Bush Administration Should Stop Foot Dragging and Finish National Workplace Exposure Study for Nurses

For Immediate Release: 
Tuesday, January 8, 2008

WASHINGTON – In a letter sent today, Environmental Working Group (EWG) Executive Director Richard Wiles urged lawmakers to call on the Bush administration to stop its almost seven years of foot dragging and move forward on implementing the critical national workplace exposures study for nurses and other frontline healthcare professionals.

“Professionals working on the frontlines of the health care industry in the United States are exposed to an array of toxic chemicals and drugs on a daily basis. Nurses have reported increased health problems that may be linked to the diverse, chronic workplace exposures they face. However, their exposures and risks have never been thoroughly studied, and federal workplace safety standards exist for just six of the literally hundreds of hazardous substances to which nurses are exposed on the job. This is unacceptable,” wrote Wiles in his letter to the Chair and Ranking Members of the relevant committees in both the House and Senate.

A recent survey by EWG, the American Nurses Association, Health Care Without Harm and the Environmental Health Education Center at the University of Maryland School of Nursing found that nurses who were exposed frequently to sterilizing chemicals, cleaners, drug preparation residues, radiation, and other hazardous substances reported increased rates of asthma, miscarriage, and certain types of cancer.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)--the federal agency responsible for conducting research and making recommendations for the prevention of work-related injury and illness-- laid out plans in 2001 to conduct a study on occupational hazards and employee health and safety practices across all industries, starting with the Health Services industry. However, the study has been unnecessarily put on hold by bureaucratic delays in the funding process. Last month a three-year funding plan was approved from NIOSH’s National Occupational Research Agenda program, but final sign off by the Office of Management and Budget could delay the study for yet another year.

Read the letter here.


EWG is a nonprofit research organization based in Washington, DC that uses the power of information to protect human health and the environment. The group’s research on this issue is available online at http://www.ewg.org/sites/nurse_survey/analysis/main.php

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