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Cytotoxic Drug Spills

What you should know about Cytotoxic Drug Spills

Cytotoxic drug spills are life-threatening and should be handled properly when they arise in the workplace. Cytotoxic drugs – sometimes known as antineoplastic, anticancer, hazardous or cancer chemotherapy drugs – include a wide range of chemical compounds. By interfering with cell division, Cytotoxic drugs not only can kill tumor cells but also, if physical contact is made with the drugs for long periods of time, healthy cells. With some chemotherapy drugs being mutagenic, they may cause changes in cell DNA which can result in cancer, miscarriage and/or birth defects. Acute health effects of cytotoxic drugs can include irritation of the skin, eyes and mucous membranes, light-headedness, and nausea. It is important that you do not let your employees suffer from any negative health effects. Please set up proper protocol and use a hazardous drug safety kit to protect everyone from the potential dangers.

Some cytotoxic drugs are also considered hazardous antibiotics. A small percentage of the population is severely allergic to these agents and many others show evidence of mild allergies to trace amounts of the drug.

Cytotoxic spills involving radiopharmaceuticals used in diagnosis and treatment of patients can expose personnel to the effects of radiation if not correctly managed and a small percentage of the population may exhibit allergies to varying degrees.


The above information is not intended to create panic amongst healthcare workers dealing with hazardous drugs but aims to enhance awareness within the industry about the specialized precautions to take when handling such drugs.

It is critical to be aware of why personal protective equipment (PPE) is required to be worn at all times during administration or preparation of cytotoxic drugs, antibiotics, and radiopharmaceuticals and also to be aware of the safe and proper procedures for spill cleanups to reduce personal exposure.

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