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Nurse petitions for new law on operating theatre ventilation

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A theatre nurse has launched a petition urging the government to introduce laws around ventilation in the operating environment, claiming that healthcare workers are being exposed to a “toxic plume”.

Kathy Nabbie, a former theatre nurse from London, claims she suffered chronic respiratory problems following years of exposure to a toxic plume created during surgical ablation.

“We have the technology available in the UK, but we fail to use it”

Kathy Nabbie

She has teamed up with the Association for Perioperative Practice to petition for the use of local evacuation ventilation systems to be compulsory during routine surgical procedures.

Diathermy plume is a toxic gaseous by-product produced during routine surgical procedures such as electrocautery, laser surgery or the use of ultrasonic scalpels.

According to previously published research cited by the association, it has been found to contain mutagenic properties, toxins and carcinogens that are similar to those found in cigarettes.

Further studies have also indicated that just 1g of tissue ablated during these procedures, creates a plume that has the same mutagenic effect as smoking six unfiltered cigarettes.

“No-one should be exposed to inhaling toxic smoke as part of their working day”

Tracey Williams

Researchers have warned that persistent exposure could trigger the onset of a range of conditions, from acute and chronic inflammatory respiratory diseases to headaches, dizziness and viruses.

Ms Nabbie claims that her chronic respiratory issues were the direct result of being exposed to such a plume and could have been prevented by the correct use of ventilation systems.

Local evacuation ventilation systems capture the contaminants generated by the plume, but they are not compulsory in the UK unlike parts of the US, noted the Association of Perioperative Practice.

Association member Ms Nabbie said: “For almost three decades, we have known about the hazards of diathermy plume, yet nothing is being done to prevent exposure.

Association for Perioperative Practice

Kathy Nabbie

Kathy Nabbie

“Two states in America; Colorado and Rhode Island, already have laws, with others following closely behind,” she noted.

“We have the technology available in the UK, but we fail to use it. It is about time we utilised this technology and followed the US by making the use of evacuation systems mandatory,” she added.

Tracey Williams, president of the association which represents operating theatre practitioners, said: “We owe it to our patients, ourselves and our colleagues to make smoke evacuation mandatory.”

“No-one should be exposed to inhaling toxic smoke as part of their working day,” she said.

The online petition has already been signed by nearly 5,000 people. However, for the government to respond in writing, the petition must attact a total of 10,000 signatures before the 12 July 2019.


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