JOURNAL ARTICLE
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Simulated exposure of hospital emergency personnel to solvent vapors and respirable dust during decontamination of chemically exposed patients.

STUDY OBJECTIVE: To ascertain the breathing-zone level of organic solvents and respirable particulates in a simulated hospital patient decontamination.

DESIGN: An adult-sized, clothed plastic mannequin was contaminated with a solvent or particulate, then decontaminated. Rescuers were exposed to acetone, p-xylene, iron oxide, or zinc oxide during decontamination. We performed breathing-zone air sampling on the two rescuers. Five trials were run with each chemical.

PARTICIPANTS: Two physicians performed the decontamination.

RESULTS: Measured breathing-zone concentrations for the chemicals tested were significantly lower than their respective short-term breathing-zone limits (P = .042, .043, .001, and .001 for acetone, p-xylene, iron, and zinc oxide, respectively).

CONCLUSION: The chemicals tested during simulated hospital decontamination did not pose a respiratory health risk to rescuers. This model may be useful in the extrapolation of breathing-zone exposure to more toxic chemicals. Because ours are preliminary data, the use of respiratory protective equipment during decontamination must be recommended.

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