Health panel approves bill to limit employee exposure to surgical smoke

Health panel approves bill to limit employee exposure to surgical smoke

Nancy Munoz

TRENTON, N.J. – Recognizing the health consequences of surgical smoke exposure, an Assembly panel passed a bill sponsored by Assemblywoman Nancy Munoz on Thursday to require smoke evacuation systems in operating rooms. 

“Our health care professionals deserve a truly smoke-free workplace,” Munoz (R-Union) said. “No one should have to inhale surgical fumes, which can infiltrate masks, when there are systems that are designed to clear the air. Studies have shown that there are risks for pregnant women and health consequences for workers who have prolonged exposure to surgical smoke, which we have the ability to limit now.” 

Surgical smoke, a byproduct of tissue destruction during certain procedures, can contain toxic gasses and vapors and may disseminate infectious pathogens, according to research. Exposure can also lead to headaches, eye irritation, cough, sore throat, nausea, drowsiness, dizziness, sneezing, and more. 

The Assemblywoman’s bill (A256) would require health care facilities with surgery rooms to install smoke evacuation systems.

“Smoke evacuation systems are FDA-approved and embraced by many professional organizations as a way to protect the health of those who are working to support the health of patients,” Munoz said.

A study by the Journal of American Medical Association found only 14% of operating room workers use smoke evacuators. Nine states – Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Rhode Island, Oregon and Washington – have adopted similar legislation.