Industry Should Not Ignore Potential Health Threat To Pharmacy Workers

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture
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AlburtyLab's President, David Alburty issued a statement today regarding serious concerns about efforts by McKesson/Parata to misrepresent and diminish the potential health threats that pharmacy workers face when they work in pharmacies using air pressure driven dispensing machines.

Statement by David Alburty:

Communications recently issued by McKesson/Parata regarding potential exposure of pharmacy workers to airborne pill dust when they use air pressure driven drug dispensing machines attempt to mask a potentially serious health matter affecting pharmacy workers.

McKesson/Parata claims that unreleased tests they performed, not conducted by Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) but "under OSHA standards (set by *1 NIOSH)," are relevant to this issue. They are not.

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It is critical to know that OSHA air quality regulations are limited to general guidelines for "nuisance dust" such as emissions from grinding and burning processes. There are no OSHA standards establishing safe quantities of pharmaceutical compounds in the air. Nor are there OSHA standards for PM-2.5 particles and nanoparticles. These very small particles, which are used to transport pharmaceutical agents, have been shown to be generated when pills are subjected to air pressure dispensing.

PM-2.5 particles are the subject of EPA air quality standards and World Health Organization guidelines because they penetrate the lungs deeply and rapidly enter the bloodstream. As documented in our (AlburtyLab, October 2008) study, these particles are believed to cause a number of serious health problems. The fact that OSHA standards do not yet address this issue does not mean that it should be ignored.

Our study unveiled potentially serious exposures for pharmacy workers, and our strong recommendation is that the issue needs to be studied by federal regulatory agencies. As reported by the publication Inside OSHA on October 27, 2008, "A NIOSH official says that he believes pharmacists are being exposed to harmful particles." He further stated, "The agency advises against using technology that produces any type of particulate that could be inhaled."

The official described our study as "fairly straightforward" and said that there is concern that drugs involved were "not meant to be inhaled."

Clearly, federal regulatory agencies must assess risk and set guidelines for these types of machines and establish procedures to monitor the health impact on pharmacy workers when they are used.

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