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Monitoring for Waste Anesthetic Gases to Protect Health Care Professionals

EMSL Analytical provides laboratory services to identify a wide range of waste anesthetic gases to safeguard medical workers from exposure risks.

Cinnaminson, NJ – WEBWIRE

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) once estimated that more than 200,000 health care professionals were potentially being exposed to waste anesthetic gases (WAGs) on the job and were at risk of occupational illnesses.

Waste anesthetic gases are described by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) as small amounts of volatile anesthetic gases that leak from a patient’s anesthetic breathing circuit into the air of operating rooms during delivery of anesthesia. These gases may also be exhaled by patients recovering from anesthesia. Some potential effects of exposure to WAGs, according to OSHA, are nausea, dizziness, headaches, fatigue and irritability, as well as sterility, miscarriages, birth defects, cancer, and liver and kidney disease, among operating room staff or even their spouses in the case of miscarriages and birth defects.

“Waste anesthetic gases include both nitrous oxide and halogenated anesthetics,” said Joe Frasca, Senior Vice President of Marketing at EMSL Analytical, Inc. “Some of the professions potentially at risk of exposure include anesthesiologists, nurse anesthetists, surgical and obstetric nurses, operating room technicians, nurses’ aides, surgeons, anesthesia technicians, post-anesthesia care nurses, dentists, dental assistants, dental hygienists, veterinarians and their assistants, emergency room staff and radiology department personnel. Fortunately, there are a number of ways to control exposure to waste anesthetic gases. These include, but are not limited to, engineering controls (ventilation and scavenging equipment), work practices, hazard communication and training, and air monitoring.”

The University of Iowa’s Environmental Health and Safety Office states that NIOSH has a non-regulatory recommended exposure limit (REL) for halogenated agents (e.g., isoflurane) of 2 parts per million (ppm) or 15 mg/m3 as a ceiling limit (over a sampling period not to exceed one hour) during anesthetic administration. OSHA has not established a regulatory permissible exposure limit (PEL) for anesthetic gases; therefore, 2ppm is used as the exposure threshold. However, Cal/OSHA does have a PEL of 2 ppm for the maximum level of isoflurane workers are allowed to breathe, averaged over an 8-hour day.

The industrial hygiene and indoor air quality (IAQ) scientists at EMSL offer testing for a number of WAGs from sampling badges. EMSL has also sponsored an educational video about WAGs and exposure risks that can be seen at:

To learn more about WAG testing or other industrial hygiene and IAQ testing and monitoring services, please visit, call (800) 220-3675 or email .

About EMSL Analytical, Inc.
EMSL Analytical is one of the leading testing laboratories with over 46 locations throughout the United States and Canada. EMSL is a nationally recognized and locally focused provider specializing in fast laboratory results for mold, bacteria, Legionella, USP 797, pathogens, asbestos, lead, soot, char & ash from fires, VOC’s, odors, radon, formaldehyde, indoor air quality, microbiology, environmental, industrial hygiene, radiological, food, beverage & consumer products and material testing services for the identification of unknown substances. EMSL services both professionals and the general public. EMSL maintains an extensive list of accreditations from leading organizations as well as state and federal regulating bodies including, but not limited to A2LA, AIHA LAP, LLC. (AIHA EMLAP, AIHA IHLAP, AIHA ELLAP), NVLAP, CDC ELITE, CPSC, CA ELAP, NY ELAP, TX DOH, NJDEP and multiple other state accrediting agencies. Please visit our website at for a complete listing of accreditations. In addition, EMSL carries a wide range of Sampling Equipment and Investigative Products for environmental professionals.

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 Waste Anesthetic Gases
 Occupational Health
 Nitrous Oxide
 Halogenated Anesthetics

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