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California bill takes aim at surgical smoke exposure

April 4, 2017

Sacramento, CA – California lawmakers are moving forward with legislation that would require health care facilities to use scavenging systems to reduce surgical plume – toxic airborne contaminants that threaten surgical staff and patients.

Surgical plume is a serious, preventable hazard that affects thousands of health care workers on an annual basis, according to NIOSH. The smoke is a byproduct of surgery using a laser or electrosurgical unit, and it may contain toxic gases and vapors such as benzene, formaldehyde and viruses. Exposure can lead to health problems, including eye, nose and throat irritation; emphysema; asthma; and chronic bronchitis. Ventilation systems can help reduce the risk for workers.

Members of the Assembly’s Employment and Labor Committee voted 6-1 on March 16 to advance the proposal to the Appropriations Committee. At press time, the Appropriations Committee had yet to consider the legislation.

Assembly member Tony Thurmond (D-Richmond) introduced the legislation (A.B. 402), which was sponsored by the California Nurses Association/National Nurses United. Similar legislation was approved by Assembly members last year before being vetoed by Gov. Jerry Brown (D).