[Histonet] Xylene, unborn babies and a parallel note about thyroid function in female histotechs


In considering precautions for mom, I think it's more of an issue of why take the risk if it's not necessary regardless of what OSHA and all the other regulating bodies say about exposure.  We each can decide as an individual to stay or go in any lab, or wear a respirator or not, an unborn fetus cannot. After the fact is too late should there BE some grounds for caution. I have carried a baby while working in a lab, wore a negative pressure respirator whenever exposure was unavoidable, and was GREATFUL to my peers for exchanging duties with me when pregnant--and my girl was born a full month early. Liability for exposures and problems caused during gestation have a 19 year liability duration. Who's to say what the regulations will be a few years from now? So from the perspective of both the health of the baby and sound management of the lab, caution is the better part of wise management.
  Balance is the key. There are preventable exposures.  There are good working practices, personal protective wear and mechanical safety precautions that everyone should observe. There are also unavoidable risks.  I'm not suggesting wrapping the mom-to-be up in aluminum foil and having her stand in the fume hood for nine months. 
  In all of my labs when someone was pregnant, we rotated them out of changing machines (in addition to the fumes there were lifting issues) and did not require them to change the recyclers.  If we couldn't (or the lab wasn't terribly 'clean') we provided respirators that were comfortable and changed the cannisters often, even through the months of feeding the little one after birth.  I remember making these accommodations over 20 years ago (my girl is 10)...taking care of the people is what we are supposed to do.
  Think about what labs were like 20 years ago...open vats of xylene and bare hands. Xylene soaked rags for cleaning all the countertops and hot xylene to speed things up.  But  now we know better, don't we?  It might not be something you'd be aware of now, but consider 15 or 20 years down the line when researchers prove (hypothetically) that all women who carried children while working in chemical environments, breathing low levels of xylene and formalin, caused their children to lose 10 or 20 points of IQ? I'd not sleep well at night.
  Have you ever polled large groups of techs who've worked in histo over 10 years--long enough to be before good clean air regs?  Half of the women have some sort of thyroid disorder (it is just women--higher body fat levels) ...hypo or hyper or Hashi's or something...there is NO documentation of the effect of xylene on thyroid function...but there will be someday.
  If you hesitate to institute changes to accommodate your mom-to-be, poll your employees. They will rise to the occasion and surprise you in what they are willing to do for each other.  
  Best wishes for a happy and healthy new histo-baby!!

Jackie M O'Connor  wrote:
  Is there a new 'atmosphere' regarding pregnant women in histology? Is 
there new info on xylene and formalin dangers to fetuses? What about 
other histo chemicals, i.e., silver nitrate? Methanol? Aniline dyes? I'm 
not challenging this information - I'm just curious if there is something 
new I haven't heard about.

Jackie O'

"Joe Nocito" 
Sent by: histonet-bounces@lists.utsouthwestern.edu
03/26/2006 06:21 AM

To: "Jeannie Heck" , "Histonet e-mail ?'s" 

cc: (bcc: Jackie M O'Connor/LAKE/GPRD/ABBOTT)
Subject: Re: [Histonet] Xylene exposure

we do not let any pregnant employee near xylene nor formalin. I had two 
pregnant employees due at the same time. I was able to set up to cutting 
stations in a different location. They cut surgicals, recuts, special, 
immunos and did the paper work. It was tough during maternity leave, but 
pathologists were understanding.

Histology Manager
Pathology Reference Lab
San Antonio, TX
----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Jeannie Heck" 
To: "Histonet e-mail ?'s" 
Sent: Saturday, March 25, 2006 9:16 AM
Subject: [Histonet] Xylene exposure

> What special precautions, if any, does your facility
> make for pregnant employees whose job duties involve
> the use of, or exposure to xylene?
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