Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments

Trisha Kendall's blog

Disinfectant Wipes Cause Cancer?

February 16, 2011 by Trisha Kendall   Comments (0)

     I walked into a patient's room and found him using the disinfectant wipes as pericare cloths.  After all, they do come in a container that can resemble baby wipes, and with all of the small type and confusing text, who would read it?  Not to mention that for a patient with treatment related diarrhea, the cold, wet cloth felt good.

     But, in my worry about what the patient was exposed to and what I needed to do to intervene, I discovered that if the wipes make contact with the skin, you need to wash the area well and call a doctor. These wipes can cause cancer.

     What?  We are on a cancer unit.  Isn't that adding insult to injury?  So, in order to keep the surfaces in your environment clean and safe for your weakened immune system, we will clean it with a product that can cause can lead to cancer. 

     Now, I am learning that in order to reduce the spread of infectious c.diff diarrhea, we are switching to a bleach-based product throughout the hospital.  Although I will not pretend to be well educated on the new CDC recommendations for infection control, I do have strong feelings about my own exposures in the work environment.

     I am questioning how long I will continue to work in a hospital setting, with my own health exposures being one of the top concerns that I have.  I try to live a toxin-free lifestlye, although I realize I am not perfect.  But, I spend 36-48 hours a day in an environment where I am using strong disinfectants on surfaces, breath the fumes of the cleaning products, wash my hands hundreds of times a week probably, and have to rely on hospital ventilation systems. 

     How can we protect patients in a hospital setting where HAI are on the rise while also respecting the earth and each other's health?  I am all for green chemistry advances!