Department of Public Health Sciences

Prevalence of hazardous exposures in veterinary practice

Wiggins, P., M. B. Schenker, R. Green and S. Samuels

Am J Ind Med. 1989. 16(1):55-66.

All female graduates of a major U.S. veterinary school were surveyed by mailed questionnaire to obtain details of work practice and hazard exposure during the most recent year worked and during all pregnancies. Exposure questions were based on previously implicated occupational hazards which included anesthetic gases, radiation, zoonoses, prostaglandins, vaccines, physical trauma, and pesticides. The response rate was 86% (462/537). We found that practice type and pregnancy status were major determinants of hazard exposure within the veterinary profession. Small-animal practitioners reported the highest rates of exposure to anesthetic gas (94%), X-ray (90%), and pesticides (57%). Large-animal practitioners reported greater rates of trauma (64%) and potential exposure to prostaglandins (92%), Brucella abortus vaccine (23%), and carbon monoxide (18%). Potentially hazardous workplace practices or equipment were common. Forty-one percent of respondents who reported taking X-rays did not wear film badges, and 76% reported physically restraining animals for X-ray procedures. Twenty-seven percent of the respondents exposed to anesthetic gases worked at facilities which did not have waste anesthetic gas scavenging systems. Women who worked as veterinarians during a pregnancy attempted to reduce exposures to X-rays, insecticides, and other potentially hazardous exposures. Some potentially hazardous workplace exposures are common in veterinary practice, and measures to educate workers and to reduce these exposures should not await demonstration of adverse health effects.

Keywords: Anesthetics/*adverse effects, Environmental Exposure, Female, Human, Occupational Diseases/*etiology, Pregnancy, Prostaglandins/adverse effects, Pyrethrins/adverse effects, Support, Non-U.S. Gov't, *Veterinary Medicine, Women, Working, Zoonoses



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