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Occupational exposure to inhaled anaesthetics: A follow-up study on anaesthetists of an eastern European university hospital

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Although no dose–response relationship for the health risks associated with the occupational exposure to inhaled anaesthetics exists, public health authorities recommend threshold values. The aim of the present study was to assess if and to what extent these threshold values are exceeded in an eastern European university hospital before and after measures had been taken to reduce occupational exposure.


At nine workplaces occupational exposure of anaesthetists to nitrous oxide and halothane or isoflurane was measured by means of photoacoustic infrared spectrometry. The measurements were carried out in 1996 and were repeated in 1997 after the installation of active scavenging devices at five workplaces and an air-conditioning system at one workplace.


Occupational exposure to nitrous oxide and halothane or isoflurane was lower in 1997 compared to 1996. In 1997 most of the nitrous oxide values still exceeded the threshold value of 100 ppm, whereas most of the halothane and isoflurane values were already below the threshold values of 5 ppm and 10 ppm in 1996.


The measures taken were effective in reducing waste gas exposure. Nevertheless, further efforts are necessary, especially for nitrous oxide, to reach western European standards. These efforts comprise structural measures such as active scavenging devices and air-conditioning systems at all workplaces, the use of total intravenous anaesthesia, low-flow anaesthesia and an appropriate working technique.

Keywords: Occupational exposure; anesthesiologists; eastern European university hospital; nitrous oxide; volatile anesthetics: halothane, isoflurane

Document Type: Original Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Anaesthesiology, University of Regensburg, Germany, 2: Department of Anaesthesiology and General Intensive Care (B), University of Vienna, Austria and 3: Department of Anaesthesiology, University of Poznan, Poland

Publication date: August 1, 2000


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