Powerful chemotherapy drugs may have taken a deadly toll on the hospital and clinic workers who handled them.
Thousands of health care workers were chronically exposed to chemotherapy agents on the job for years before there were any safety guidelines. Now, some of those workers are being diagnosed with cancers that could be linked to that exposure.
"Multiple studies going back decades have found evidence of contamination in areas where workers prepare and deliver chemotherapy. Still more studies ... have found these agents in the blood and urine of nurses and others who handle them ...
Last year, [a] Danish study of more than 92,000 nurses found an elevated risk for breast, thyroid, nervous system and brain cancers in the nursing population."
There are some major clues in this story. The primary one is that the drugs they are using to treat cancer actually cause cancer in healthy people who are only exposed to small amounts of them.
Chemotherapy drugs are, by their very nature, extremely toxic and typically do not work with your body to modulate and normalize its response to allow the cancer to resolve normally. Natural approaches simply do not kill others because all they are doing is optimizing your body's own natural healing capacities.
Even when used correctly these toxic drugs may end up killing you prematurely or cause other cancers down the line, as they impair your immune system and are capable of causing genetic damage.
For the health care workers who make their livings making, mixing and administering these toxic agents, precautions should be taken so they avoid all exposure with the drugs. Unfortunately, for decades there were virtually no precautions taken whatsoever, not even rubber gloves.
It was actually common for chemotherapy agents to splash onto workers and on countertops.
Back then, even the pharmacies that had installed special ventilated hoods designed for mixing chemical agents were woefully misled, as the hoods were designed to blow contaminants away from the drugs … which meant it blew vapors right onto workers in the vicinity.
Today it's known that chemotherapy drugs are not only easily spread and difficult to remove from surfaces, but are also highly toxic and able to cause cancer, miscarriages, birth defects and more.
Despite this knowledge, safety is sorely lacking, even today.
Safety Precautions Remain Voluntary
In 2004, researchers from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) issued an alert urging health care practitioners to take extensive precautions when handling high-risk drugs like chemotherapy agents. Special gowns, double layers of gloves, special ventilation hoods, respirators and face shields were among the safety measures recommended.
However, the guidelines are completely voluntary, and it's thought that many health care workers, especially those at smaller hospitals, are still not aware of the risks they face when working with these toxic drugs.
Studies are only now revealing how widespread the exposure has become. Research by Thomas Connor, a research biologist with NIOSH, has found chemotherapy drugs in the blood and urine of nurses and other health care workers, while MSNBC reported a Danish study found an elevated risk of leukemia, breast, thyroid, nervous system and brain cancers among nurses.
According to NIOSH, other health effects identified to date include:
"In addition to acute or short-term effects related to treatment with antineoplastic agents [cancer chemotherapy drugs, etc.], there are a number of long-term or chronic effects that have been identified in patients.
These include liver and kidney damage, damage to the bone marrow, damage to the lungs and heart, infertility (temporary and permanent), effects on reproduction and the developing fetus in pregnant women, hearing impairment and cancer.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in Lyon, France has identified a number of antineoplastic agents and two combination therapies as having an association with cancer in patients who are treated with them. These include both cancer and non-cancer patients."
Workplace Contamination Widespread
In health care settings where cancer drugs are handled, it's now known just how far contamination stretches. Connor writes:
" … Contemporary studies uncovered widespread contamination of drugs on work surfaces, trace amounts in air samples, and their presence in the urine of workers. Vials containing these drugs are often contaminated with the drug when they are shipped. Most workplace surfaces are contaminated with the drugs being prepared and used in that area …
The interior surfaces of biological safety cabinets and isolators, floors, countertops, carts, storage bins, waste containers, treatment areas, tabletops, chairs, linen, and other items are all potential sources of exposure to anticancer drugs."
Further, he points out that bodily fluids from patients receiving these drugs may contain levels of chemotherapy agents that are even more biologically active than the original drugs. While it's thought that skin exposure is currently the primary route of exposure for health care workers, it's possible they could be exposed from working with chemotherapy patients as well.
Sadly, some of the health care workers who worked with these drugs in the early 1980s and after, often with very little precautions, are now suffering the consequences and having their lives cut short by chemotherapy-induced cancers.
What are These Drugs Doing to Cancer Patients?
Given the inherent toxicity of cancer drugs, and the known fact that they can cause cancer in otherwise healthy workers, it begs the question of whether this "cure" is worse than the disease … and in many cases I'm inclined to say yes, it often is.
The biggest drawback to chemotherapy is the fact that it destroys healthy cells throughout your body right along with cancer cells. A typical, and potentially deadly, side effect of chemo is the destruction of the rapidly multiplying and dividing cells found in your:
- Bone marrow, which produces blood
- Digestive system
- Reproductive system
- Hair follicles
Despite its reputation as the gold-standard cancer treatment, chemotherapy has an average 5-year survival success rate of just over 2 percent for all cancers, according to a study published in the journal Clinical Oncology in December 2004.
Another study, The National Confidential Enquiry into Patient Outcome and Death (NCEPOD), found that more than four in 10 patients who received chemotherapy toward the end of life experienced potentially fatal effects.
And after reviewing data from over 600 cancer patients who died within 30 days of receiving treatment, it was found that chemotherapy hastened or caused death in 27 percent of cases.
Is Chemotherapy the Only Cancer Treatment Option?
While a full 75 percent of doctors say they'd refuse chemotherapy if they were struck with cancer due to its ineffectiveness and its devastating side effects, many people turn to conventional cancer treatments like chemotherapy because they think they are the ONLY option.
They are not.
If you are facing cancer, I strongly recommend you seek the help of a knowledgeable natural health care practitioner experienced in cancer care who can help you use nutrition, emotional healing, and other alternative treatments to help you get well.
And no discussion of cancer should be complete without a reliable screening of your vitamin D levels.
Calcitriol, the most potent steroid hormone in your body, is produced in large amounts in your tissues when you have sufficient amounts of vitamin D. However, most cancer patients are vitamin D deficient.
Calcitrol -- the activated form of vitamin D -- has been shown to protect against cancer by inducing cell differentiation and controlling cell proliferation.
People with a low vitamin D level are less able to make activated vitamin D in an amount sufficient to exert the controls over cell proliferation that are needed to reduce cancer.
Optimized vitamin D levels will work synergistically with virtually every other cancer treatment. There are over 830 peer-reviewed scientific studies showing its effectiveness in the treatment of cancer!
You'll want to elevate your levels of vitamin D to about 80-90 ng/ml, and continue to have them monitored throughout your treatment.
Of course, even better than a safe treatment is preventing cancer in the first place. I've outlined my top tips for cancer prevention in this past article, and I highly suggest you look them over and begin to implement these natural strategies in your life.
Finally, if you're a health care worker who is exposed to chemotherapy agents on a regular basis (this includes veterinarians and vet techs who handle such drugs for animals), please be sure you are taking serious precautions. You can read the current NIOSH safety standards and recommendations for preventing occupational exposure to chemotherapy drugs here.